Computer App Streamlines Capture of Mine Rescue Incident Data

Focus FS, a Canada-based provider of industrial worksite systems, announced the release of Shift Rescue, during the 10th International Mine Rescue Competition (IMRC) in Sudbury, Ontario.

Shift Rescue runs on ruggedized tablets and can generate detailed incident reports.

Shift Rescue, according to the company, is an all-in-one “under-oxygen” mine rescue incident application used to digitally capture incident data including team captain information, briefing officer reports, map viewing and mark-ups, photo sharing, activity alerting, and post-incident reporting. Key features include:

  • Full functionality in no-connectivity environments;
  • Live map for real-time rescue coordination;
  • Simple oxygen countdown timer and documentation feature;
  • Post-event feedback and comment fields for mine rescue officers;
  • Convert-to-PDF feature; and
  • Centralized hub to keep and maintain incident documentation.

“Shift Rescue will significantly enhance and improve how information is collected and shared during an under oxygen mine rescue event,” said Nicole Darbaz, director of products and marketing at Focus FS. “The system collects and distributes critical rescue information during both team training and live rescue events. Shift Rescue applies to mine rescue competitions such as IMRC, but most importantly, it’s been developed for annual mine rescue team training and real-life incidents.”

The application is deployed on rugged tablets and is used underground where network connectivity may or may not be available. The information collected underground is shared with the briefing officer and control group above ground who assess the information and make time-critical decisions.

During the IMRC, a total of 27 teams representing 13 nations competed in different events, including at an underground scenario, firefighting, first aid, and more. Focus FS, with the help of Ontario Mine Rescue, developed the Shift Rescue product to be deployed and used during the competition.

Mexican Silver Producer Expands Simulator Training

Velardeña mine in Mexico’s Durango State, part of Industrias Peñoles, the world’s largest producer of silver, has expanded its heavy equipment operator training program with the inclusion of ThoroughTec Simulation’s Cybermine E-learning system and Operator Familiarization Trainer (OFT) for their drill rig and LHD operators.

The mine operates more than 10 drill rigs and 15 LHDs. It has been using Cybermine high-fidelity Full Mission Simulators (FMS) as part of their training program for nearly three years, after acquiring fourth-generation Cybermine simulators for the training of Sandvik DD320 drill rig and LH517 LHD operators in mid-2013.

Industrias Peñoles is using ThoroughTec Simulation’s Cybermine E-Learning and Operator Familiarization Trainer systems to improve underground drilling and haulage safety and productivity at its Velardeña mine.

José Ignacio Porras, vice president–Americas at ThoroughTec, said, “We’re confident the mine will see an even bigger improvement in workforce performance thanks to these additional training systems.”

According to ThoroughTec, the Cybermine E-learning system guides trainees through a particular equipment’s basic controls and operation, as well as pro-
viding mine environment and site procedure orientation. The courses are interactive and allow students to advance at their own pace. Examples of course elements include demonstrating the importance of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), conducting walk-around inspection, recognizing, and responding to hazards within the mine and identifying various signage.

Once DD320 and LH517 operators complete the E-learning course, they move onto Velardeña’s Cybermine OFT to familiarize themselves with instruments, controls and equipment functions before entering the FMS phase. This supplementary system is intended to develop and instill advanced, mine operator psycho-motor skills. Velardeña’s operators are taken through exercises via an advanced interactive touchscreen incorporated with the cab’s controls. It is also designed to accommodate the interchangeable cabs not actively engaged in FMS training.

“The biggest improvement that we have seen so far is the faster turnaround time to train a new operator,” said Carlos Macias, superintendent of training and development at Peñoles. “This decreases the total cost of training and accident risks significantly.” According to Macias, when back in the field, the trained operators are more familiar with health and safety regulations, which contributes to a safer environment and improved production.

In fact, Velardeña’s drill rig and LHD operators are not allowed to maneuver equipment without prior training on the Cybermine system. “By doing this, we reduce the risk and likelihood of an accident and at the same time reinforce
the training of experienced operators,” said Macias.

University Curriculum Tackles Mining Technology Challenges

Innovative technology solutions for the mining sector are the focus of a new unit at Wits University (University of the Witwatersrand) in Johannesburg, South Africa, bringing together various disciplines.

The Wits Mining Institute (WMI) will house the school’s Digital Mine project and a college network to develop 21st century skills at artisan and technician level.

“The institute’s mission is to make mining safer and more sustainable by harnessing fast-developing technologies and practices from different sectors—which are sadly not always incorporated into mining applications quickly enough to address the industry’s many challenges,” said former School of Mining Engineering professor, Fred Cawood, who heads the unit.

He said WMI had accomplished a breakthrough by forging working links across the university’s schools and research units, so that mining issues could be addressed in an integrated manner. “It has taken some time to achieve this, but the WMI now draws upon a formidable battery of expertise and insights from disciplines like architecture, public health, law, global change, population migration, urban development, electronics and computer science,” he said.

Cawood said South Africa’s deep orebodies posed particularly difficult challenges to mining operations, but noted that progress was already being made to show the path forward for both established and new operations. “Work on converting ‘indoor’ positioning systems to underground applications is already under way, for instance, paving the way to developing an automated tunnel for mining at depths no longer viable or safe for humans to operate,” he commented.

Cutting edge software, sensors and related high-tech infrastructure enable developments like real-time underground airflow modeling, and access systems that could automatically exclude personnel restricted by health issues or legal compliance requirements. “This kind of intervention brings us closer to the concept of the intelligent mine, where the data required for good decisions is available in real time—and in many cases can inform automated responses that removes the risk of human error,” he said.

WMI will focus on modern skills required to install and maintain the various new technologies being implemented or considered by mechanized and digital mines. “Mines that are already mechanized find themselves in a difficult position, as last century’s skills are unable to properly manage and advance the modern technologies that they have installed in their operations,” said Cawood.