Mine safety technology making strides

August 28th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) showcased some of its latest technologies to address mine safety at a media briefing at the Mandela Mining Precinct in Johannesburg during July 2018. These technologies included a ground penetrating radar to monitor rock mass stability, a pedestrian detection system and a robotic system to navigate unsafe areas in a mine. The council’s panel of experts also discussed other technologies such as fatigue detection and thermal imaging solutions.

The CSIR’s Dr Shaniel Davrajh answering questions about the pedestrian detection system.

The CSIR’s Dr Shaniel Davrajh answering questions about the pedestrian detection system.

The CSIR’s research primarily focuses is on extraction, with its South African Mining Extraction, Research, Development and Innovation (SAMERDI) research programme (which is funded by parliament) working on increasing mine longevity, working in inaccessible or difficult to access areas, and mechanisation, including non-explosive mining. Advance ore-body knowledge, real-time information systems and automation with the intent to identify and monitor risks key themes of its research.

The ground penetrating radar, beneficial in especially platinum mining for roof bolt type and location selection as well as identifying seam and curved joints, can export data in DXF format to make use of the data in real-time. The researchers want to expand the system to a multi-channel solution and improve its range, and mount it on a robot for autonomous and remote control. They are working towards 3D rock profiles, which would also aid volume calculations. The pedestrian detection system, which is equipped with a rangefinder and vision system, aims to address the limitations of current systems, such as the need to equip each miner with a sensor, and also sets out to eliminate false alarms.

Most solutions are not commercialised yet, as the CSIR is a research institution which does not compete with commercial firms.

A stope simulator at the Mandela Mining Precinct where research projects can be put to the tested.

A stope simulator at the Mandela Mining Precinct where research projects can be put to the tested.

The expert panel also explained that data science has become as important as improved sensors to mining in recent years. Mining at depth, however, remains the most challenging form of mining, with rock bursts and rockfalls accounting for more than a third of fatalities according to geophysicist Dr Michael van Schoor.

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