Just as mining operations have evolved over the years, with technological innovations and safety awareness working to tighten regulations and risk management efforts, so we’ve also seen rescue efforts evolve to become a well oiled machine. The latest example, at China’s Hushan gold mine, is a perfect representation of this: a feat made possible by the streamlining of rescue services over the years, showcasing how both technology and attitudes around best practice are shaping the mine safety landscape.
While health and safety within the mining industry has made significant strides over the years, it remains a hazardous occupation. Depleting ore deposits are forcing miners to move to increasingly remote and deep locations to source material.
Accidents are therefore still a common enough occurrence, particularly in hard rock mining. Yet the capacity of rescues has grown, with operations being carried out against the odds of unstable terrain, as well as the depth and number of those trapped. Here, we look at some of the novel technologies and organisational approaches that are making mine rescue an art in and of itself.
Technological advancements are accelerating in almost every industry in modern life, and while predictions of just what will take off next vary, one certainty is that the progression of mining safety technology is only going to continue. A Deloitte report highlights the proliferation of new technologies in response to mine sites becoming increasingly remote, with a huge part of this new landscape being seen in wearable technologies.
When it comes to monitoring the physical state of those trapped, wearable tech can be instrumental in fine tuning readings of vital signs such as body temperature, heart rate, biopotential measurement, and barometric pressure. Companies have been developing a range of wearables to allow for real-time monitoring of workers, with one of the most popular ones being smart hard-hats.
US-based Guardhat has developed a helmet equipped with sensors that can detect workers’ safety in their immediate surroundings, while Canadian-based K4 Integration issues personalised hard hats for each of their workers that provide real-time information on their location and the state of the mine. M3SH Technology, a health and safety electronic equipment manufacturer in New Brunswick, similarly developed a helmet that monitors ambient conditions within a mine, as well as workers’ vitals.
These wearables can also allow companies to keep tabs on workers’ location, helping to pinpoint those in distress.
Using lifeline shafts
With miners trapped below ground, creating and utilising any passageway available (however small) is crucial. Over the years, they’ve been used as a channel for both physical and emotional means of support for the miners below.