Digital services multinational Orange Business Services and diamond miner De Beers Group' subsidiary De Beers Marine South Africa have jointly installed and tested a customised Internet of Things (IoT) solution to provide geofencing to maintain safe working distances for crew around the heavy machinery involved in marine diamond mining operations.
The new solution was successfully piloted on board the MV Mafuta, the world’s largest offshore diamond mining vessel owned and operated by Debmarine Namibia and operating up to 150 km off the coast of Namibia.
The pilot used digital IoT technologies and wearable sensors to monitor crew proximity to heavy machinery.
As part of the pilot, Orange imported the Mafuta’s AutoCAD files and undertook an onboard site survey to map antenna locations to geofence a predetermined area on the vessel. Ten crew members were equipped with wrist sensors. If one of the crew breached the geofenced area onboard the vessel, the ship’s bridge was alerted immediately.
De Beers Group Technology South Africa, a research and development arm of De Beers Group, is now further exploring additional applications, such as a breach alert function to link the sensors directly to the mining machinery via a supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada) control system and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to facilitate a failsafe cut-off in the event of a breach in the geofence.
"The initial engagement consultation and joint workshop with the team from Orange Business Services was very productive and quickly identified the potential for an IoT solution to ensure the wellbeing of personnel onboard the vessels. We quickly moved to a pilot phase, which has now confirmed the potential of this innovative approach that we could embed within our existing safety processes and procedures," Debmarine Namibia MV Mafuta vessel manager Gerhardus Theron says.
Diamond mining vessels bring crew and heavy machinery into relatively close proximity, and De Beers is committed to ensuring the highest standards of operating safety for all personnel. The Orange IoT solution was developed in response to De Beers’ ‘zero harm’ objectives.
“Debmarine Namibia has a very clear aim of ‘zero harm’ across all our operations, and we are constantly looking at ways of enhancing employee safety and especially around the heavy machinery required for diamond recovery operations," says Theron.
“This smart IoT solution developed with De Beers is a great example of innovating and co-creating with our customer. The geofencing pilot has already proved successful in one of the most challenging heavy industrial environments – a floating diamond mine at sea, with prolonged exposure to strong vibration and corrosive saltwater, comments Orange Business Services South Africa country manager Keith Matthews.
The next phase of development will be aimed at refining the interface and data collection capabilities, and include testing a trigger function to deactivate machinery in the event of a breach of the geofence by a crew member, he notes.