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Insights into underground safety

Hard hats underground mine
Hard hats in an underground mine

Maptek’s approach to underground mine safety highlights several key insights and strategies that are crucial for enhancing safety in underground mining. We spoke to Business Development Manager John Godfrey about why the global technology provider is developing VisionV2X to target proximity detection first, before extending into collision avoidance.

Efficacy and Efficiency at Level 7: Maptek’s focus on implementing highly efficient Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) Level 7 Situational Awareness/Proximity Detection Systems, like VisionV2X, represents a forward-thinking approach to safety.

Maptek road detection

Golden rules for any safety system are that it is reliable, easy to install and straightforward to use. At the heart of VisionV2X is an ergonomic touchscreen interface installed in heavy vehicle cabs that operators can rely on for visible and audible feedback around the proximity of at-risk personnel and vehicles. The system continuously runs automated checks in the background to ensure VisionV2X is operating correctly.

Maptek is actively pursuing several Level 7 pilot projects in South and North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. At the same time, the system has racked up close to 2 million operational testing hours with Rio Tinto according to Godfrey.

By achieving 100% accuracy in detecting vehicles and pedestrians at significant distances, the emphasis shifts towards proactive prevention rather than reactive measures. This approach not only enhances safety but also optimises operational efficiency by reducing the need for higher-level safety systems.

Embracing Industry Uncertainty: The mining industry’s incomplete understanding regarding EMESRT Level 9 Interactive Control requirements underscores the importance of adaptive and collaborative technology development.

Maptek’s commitment to partnering with mining companies to assess and comprehend safety issues demonstrates their dedication to ensuring that technology evolves in line with industry needs. This adaptable approach ensures that solutions are tailored to real-world challenges.

Productivity and Profitability: The recognition of less-than-optimal Level 9 Interactive Control functionality causing productivity and profitability issues highlights the intersection of safety and business success.

To create a system that miners could rely on for proximity detection underground, Maptek turned to proven technology in the automotive industry. Engineering software smarts combined with 40 years knowledge of mining and input from ergonomics and human experience experts led to a simple interface design that supports equipment operators in keeping people safe.

Maptek’s approach to preventing unnecessary alarms and incidents speaks to the broader theme of sustainable safety. By developing systems that not only protect workers and equipment but also enhance overall productivity, safety objectives are aligned with the industry bottom line.

Industry Collaboration: Closely following developments in EMESRT and participating in underground mine safety forums reflects a collaborative spirit within the mining technology sector. Knowing that detection around corners and in blindspots were immediate, critical needs, Maptek ensured it delivered this functionality with VisionV2X.

EMESRT Level 8 (Advisory Control) testing at a prominent Australian mine will commence in October 2023 and run throughout 2024. This willingness to collaborate and align technology development with industry standards and needs fosters a safer, more productive, and more sustainable mining environment.

Maptek underground detection

Future-Proofing Safety Solutions: Keeping people and equipment safe is the number 1 priority for mine managers, operators and supervisors. All while meeting their production output and decarbonisation targets. Thousands of people operate heavy and light machinery in Wi-Fi and GPS denied environments in underground mines worldwide, with the trend to deeper mining to access valuable resources only expecting to grow.

The approach to developing technology, such as Level 8 Advisory Control and the anticipated Level 9 Interactive Control, demonstrates a long-term vision for underground mine safety. By waiting for industry-wide consensus and leveraging operational test mines, Maptek ensures that their safety solutions are not only state-of-the-art but also reliable, cost-effective, and ready for long-term deployment.

Considerations for underground mine safety go beyond just developing cutting-edge technology; they encompass a holistic approach that takes into account efficiency, adaptability, productivity, and collaboration. By addressing these aspects, Maptek aims to provide mining companies with safety solutions that not only protect lives but also contribute to the sustainability and success of the mining industry as a whole.

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