TRICHARDT, Mpumalanga (miningweekly.com) – New people-to-vehicle proximity detection technology that stops shuttle cars in their tracks if they are moving too close to personnel in underground mines is preventing injuries in Sasol Mining’s coal production areas, Sasol Mining GM engineering Gary Leibbrandt tells Mining Weekly Online.
The proximity detection system detects people in close proximity to mobile machinery and brings the machinery to a halt if people are too close.
The machines generate an electromagnetic field, which is picked up by transponders in miners’ caplamps.
As soon as people are at an unsafe distance from a mobile machine, there is first a warning beep and if they come closer than two metres, the machine automatically applies the braking system and stops dead, preventing people from being run over.
Sasol Mining developed the system in conjunction with US firm Frederick Mining Controls, which is since sold out to Strata Proximity Systems, headed by a former South African now living in America.
“The industry is taking this on. We’ve had legislators from the US actually visiting us, we believe, with the aim of making this compulsory in the US,” Sasol Mining MD Hermann Wenhold reveals.
Sasol Mining realised five years ago that its major accidents were machinery related and in particular involved people being injured by moving machinery.
A worldwide survey showed that there were no systems available to prevent people being run over underground and Frederick undertook to develop the technology, which trials have refined.
Sasol Mining is now working closely with new owner Strata to ensure that the field generation is sufficiently strong to meet its needs.
In South Africa, some companies are using alternative technology that brings vehicles to a slow down rather than a total stop.
Sasol Mining has converted three of its major mines to the technology and it is understood that AngloGold Ashanti is rolling out 600 Strata units.
Joy Mining Machinery of the US is developing its own system.
South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and its Virginian counterpart in the US are believed to be close to making decisions to enforce rollout of the units on all underground equipment.