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What Can Be Done to Prevent Mining Accidents?

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preventing mining accidents trough simulation

Simulator for Haul Truck

Photo: ©Caterpillar, 2010

1. Training Is Key

Because of the unique dangers in mining operations, workers need extensive safety training. Mandatory and optional trainings are widely available to mining professionals, rapidly raising the safety standards of this industry.

  • Compulsory Training Programs for Miners

Most mining countries mandate that each mine have an approved worker training program in health and safety issues. Each plan must include a certain quantity of hours of basic safety training for new miners with no experience. In addition to new miner training, each miner must receive regular refresher safety training every year, and miners assigned to new jobs must receive safety training related to their new task.

  • Prevention Through Simulation

Increasingly, mines use more high-tech tools for miner training, such as machinery simulators and virtual reality simulators. By simulating actual mine conditions and emergencies, mine workers are better prepared and companies can instantly assess a mine worker's progress and skills.

  • Blasting License

People in charge of blasting operation attend specific training and are required to be licensed for the use of explosives and initiation systems. Most mining countries set up a specific refresher safety training for experienced blasters to integrate fast-paced changing legislation (especially after 9/11) and the new technological trends.

  • Administration Classes on Health, Safety, and Mining Methods
  • Mining Machinery Manufacturers offer courses in machine operation and maintenance with emphasis on safe practices due to potential liabilities in case of an accident

2. Safety Legislation

Common efforts of governments, mine operators, labor, professional organizations and academia are likely to be the rule in most mining countries to promote up-to-date efficient safety legislations and harmonization of practices.

Nevertheless, international mining groups have developed exploitation and production health and safety standards that are implemented in their mines regardless of the countries were they are operating. As they are corporate standards adopted by listed groups, those standards and prescriptions are likely to be much more protective than many local regulations.

3. Technology Standard

The introduction of new technologies has been continuously contributing to reduce the injury and fatality rates in the mining industry. The larger occurrence of mining accidents in developing countries and in illegal mining operations is directly related to a lack of up-to-date technology, especially regarding:

  • Personal Protective Equipments

    Standards personal protective equipments, including adequate radio communication devices or safety lamps that won't potentially trigger explosives atmospheres.

  • Exploitation Infrastructure

    Exploitation infrastructure for fire alarm, gas management, miners rescue, ventilation, etc.

  • Explosive Products

    Now there is available a wide range of water-based emulsion explosives and precise programmable detonators to initiate it. These make a major difference in safety versus unstable TNT-based explosives or erratic traditional detonators (fuse caps). Between 1978 and 2000, 106 miners were killed and 1,050 were injured by explosives and breaking agents.

    Electronic detonators are a good example of technological progress towards a safer mining environment. The real safety advantage to the system is that the miner in charge can have total system verifications before he goes into a charge-and-fire sequence, which means that almost all potential problems will be known up front before firing. So corrective measures can be taken, and save lives. This level of safety and operational transparency was previously impossible.

  • Machinery to Replace Operators For the Most Dangerous Operations

    Some mines have now set up fully robotized drilling and explosives charging processes.

4. Freedom of the Press and Public Concern

Being able to easily conceal an accident from the public gives no incentive to local operators to improve the health and safety standards in their operations. Freedom of the press, trade unions and NGOs play a key role in reducing mine accidents rate.

Public concern about mine accidents has already prompted passage of stricter safety legislation, improved training methodology, safer practices and technology.

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