Health and Safety
Innovation Goes Underground
An underground mine is a web of transportation corridors, working areas and levels, with traffic and concurrent activities taking place at any given time. Communication across this web plays a key role in improving the safety of individuals working underground as well as being essential for operational effectiveness. Reliable communication systems reduce risks by providing constant two-way communication between miners and their support teams and is of crucial importance in case of emergency.
Both the Kittila and the LaRonde mines are equipping themselves with state-of-the-art communication technologies at their underground mines.
At Kittila, tags are used to track machines, vehicles and personnel in real-time. A new mine visualization software was recently added to the mix to provide the control room with a constant overview of personnel, fleet and ongoing activities as well as open stopes and infrastructure. Having that knowledge will help the control room and shift supervisors make the best possible decisions while planning and managing shifts. The software will be integrated with Kittila’s shift scheduling tool, to show the mining plan on a 3D model.
The new software will also help to manage ventilation in a more energy efficient way. The tags in the equipment will show, whether the equipment is running or not, thus making it possible to adjust ventilation accordingly.
Improved awareness of what is happening underground will also improve our mine evacuation process. During evacuation, both the control room and the mine rescue team will have better control and overview of the situation. The experience from neighbouring Swedish mines was that evacuation time gets reduced by 25%.
At LaRonde, communication is also a key component for increased safety underground where people often work in isolated areas. On surface, everybody uses their cell phone to communicate. Do cellphones actually work underground? Now they do at LaRonde, where an enterprising team has developed an LTE (long-term evolution) network solution for the Zone 5 underground mine. Implementing this digital, hi-speed voice and data technology allows for cell phone use underground and opens up a whole new communication platform for our industry. It facilitates the use of real-time data to help monitor and control different equipment from surface or automatically through programmed parameters – for example, operating a scoop or drill from surface between shifts or in hard to reach areas. Also at LaRonde, a scoop automation project has shown the potential of successfully mucking a development round from surface between shifts. With extensive insights from a number of departments, this project could ultimately promote safety and productivity in an increasingly challenging environment as we mine at deeper levels. It is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of worker safety.