Studying analytics crucial to safety of mining workers
Safety is critical to the mining industry. However, despite that, accidents are fairly common. There’s a silent agreement between employers and employees in the field that accidents will happen. Of course, no one in their right mind wants them to happen, but it is what it is.
The number of deaths related to mining has gone down over the years, dropping to a record low in 2019. But that can always improve. Fortunately, modern technology can help lower those numbers even more by increasing awareness, building real-time insights, and offering more accurate controls — even remotely.
The Next Generation of Mining Technologies
Incident response and preparedness are two mission-critical practices in the field of mining. Modern technologies, specifically advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), can improve mining analytics by increasing the insights leaders and employees have about a project.
More information means more informed decisions and better estimations. Here are just some of the ways that advanced analytics, and safety analytics, in particular, are changing the mining industry for the better.
1. Removing Human Error
It doesn’t matter what activity we’re talking about, from driving to working in a mine. Human error is to blame for many accidents and events. Automation can eliminate a lot of human error, especially when it’s driven by machine learning and advanced analytics.
Most importantly, humans can be removed from the equation almost entirely. Robotics equipment, remote controls, and real-time monitoring can ensure controllers know precisely what’s going on, without ever stepping foot in a mine.
The same is true for heavy machinery, as people don’t necessarily have to be in or on the equipment to operate it. It allows miners to send incredibly capable and versatile devices into hazardous areas while staying out of harm’s way.
2. Surfing the Trends
Insights breed more nuanced and more accurate information. That’s why data analytics and machine learning solutions are so powerful. Not only can they ingest massive amounts of digital information, but they can do it at breakneck speeds.
For mining operations, it means these technologies can spit out practical insights to drive action. They analyze historical and current data to find trends, patterns, and other opportunities.
For example, the systems can detect the likelihood of a collapse using current data from live sensors and historical data from past events. Atmospheric monitoring, backed by remote analytics, can detect dangerous chemical or particle levels. What comes out the other end are essentially more actionable insights that can be put to use to preserve safety and efficiency.
3. The Right Planning
Workers don’t just dive into a mine and begin hacking away at the stone and other materials. There’s always a plan in place, with clear direction about where they should be digging, what they should be looking for, and when they need to stop.
Mining analytics can help prioritize planning and improve accuracy, which is the way it should be. No personnel should be entering a work site without proper knowledge about where they’re going, what they’re doing, and what they need to achieve.
The insights gained from advanced analytics can help create a more successful plan, based on direct information about the mine, environmental data, and beyond. Soil and stone samples can even be used to predict where lucrative dig sites may be.
4. Telematics and Wearables
Wearable technologies can be used to collect personal vitals and track movements throughout a mine, even underground. That information can be fed, remotely, to site managers, allowing them to see who’s safe and who’s not. In the event of a collapse, trapped miners can be located much easier, and their vitals can also be monitored.
The same information can be fed aboveground about equipment, tools, people, and more. A bevy of smart technologies like RFID tags, wearable tech, and enhanced safety equipment can provide the necessary data to facilitate all of these interactions.
These integrated and smart technologies empower a greater awareness about the environment, the people working in a mine, and the equipment they’re using. Perhaps that’s why connected worker technologies, such as wearables, are expected to see 50% growth in adoption by 2025.
5. Better Equipment Upkeep
The last thing workers want when they’re down in the mine is for equipment to break down. It can be difficult to move, there may not be resources available to fix the problem, and it can also ruin deadlines or other plans.
Preventive maintenance is a necessary element of mining operations, which takes a proactive stance on fixing and servicing tools, equipment, and other gear — including personal protective equipment.
Advanced analytics can drive those maintenance solutions by highlighting performance metrics and other details. The system might detect an impending breakdown, for instance, based on declining performance data. Maintenance crews and workers can service the related gear before a failure happens, or they can swap to something more reliable.
Real-time data can also be fed to suppliers aboveground, alerting them when their fellow workers might need more fuel, materials, gear replacements, and so on.
Smarter, Data-Driven Mining Ops
Modern technologies like advanced analytics can vastly enhance productivity, uptime, and worker safety. By placing real-time sensors throughout a mine and attaching them to equipment or people, the collected data can empower more informed decisions and faster reactions.
Accidents happen, but they can be mitigated considerably with the insights gained through safety analytics and smart technologies. Miners can be monitored at all times, providing their location, vitals, and movements. Automation can be used to eliminate human error. Machine learning and data analytics can be used to understand a mine, the current environment, and to create prediction models for future events, or even to find new dig sites.
Collectively, these technologies and solutions can make the mining industry safer than ever.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations change our world. She has over 3 years experience writing articles in the industrial and tech sectors.