Enhancing Underground Mining Safety: Introducing the Ore Pass Monitoring Project

The occurrence of blockages in ore passes and chutes can lead to potential safety risks and production delays, particularly if not identified early. In collaboration with a major mining operation in Australia, a groundbreaking project is being proposed that aims to develop and trial an effective method for detecting blockages using fibre-optic sensing technology. This article delves into the importance of this project and its potential to transform safety in the mining industry. 

Addressing Safety Hazards

The operation of ore passes in mining environments involves numerous safety risks. The presence of oversized or irregularly shaped materials can create hazardous situations during clearing procedures, such as the use of explosives. Additionally, the introduction of water to remove blockages can lead to water accumulation and mud-rushes, further jeopardising safety. Effectively managing these risks is crucial to minimise accidents and ensure the well-being of underground mining personnel.

The Urgent Need for Improvement

Past incidents and statistics highlight the pressing need for an effective blockage detection system. Between 1975 and 1995, statistics from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) revealed that 75% of injuries in US underground metal mines were directly or indirectly linked to various factors such as operations involving ore pass chutes, hand tool usage, falls of broken rock, and structural failures of chutes, gates, and ore pass walls. Recent incidents serve as tragic reminders of the risks involved: in 2011, two Vale workers lost their lives at Stobie Mine in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, while trying to clear a blockage, resulting in a sudden release of wet ore that engulfed them. Similarly, in 2014 at Medusa Mining’s Co-O underground mine, a fatality occurred when an assistant was struck by a dislodged large rock. Another unfortunate incident took place in 2018, when an employee of AngloGold Ashanti lost their life in Moab Khotsong due to a shaft ore pass incident. These fatal incidents underscore the urgency to enhance safety measures and reduce production delays.

Introducing the Ore Pass Monitoring Project 

The collaborative project between Mining3 and a major mining operation in Australia aims to develop an innovative approach for detecting blockages in ore passes and chutes using fibre-optic sensing technology. By embedding fibre-optic cables parallel to ore passes, the system can monitor material movement accurately. Early detection of blockages allows for safer and more efficient clearing operations, minimising risks and potential accidents.

Potential Benefits and Future Prospects 

Once validated, the project holds significant potential for scaling up the system to monitor multiple ore passes using a single setup, reducing costs and enhancing efficiency. Additionally, the integration of real-time flow monitoring and other sensors can further improve productivity tracking and safety protocols.

Collaborate for a Safer Future 

Mining3 extends an invitation to mining companies to collaborate and contribute to this crucial endeavour. By supporting this project financially and through active participation, industry players can collectively drive advancements in underground mining safety. Together, we can make significant strides towards safeguarding lives, preventing accidents, and setting new benchmarks for safety excellence in the mining industry.

Please enquire via our contacts page or reach out directly to Dr Erik Isokangas to express your interest and support this project.