Hexagon Mining AngloAmerican journey to safer mines
Author: Neville Judd
The art of mining is to balance safety and productivity. Success today depends on improving both. Integrated solutions are helping to ensure that this is possible. In January, Mining Magazine announced Hexagon Mining and its customer, AngloAmerican Kumba Iron Ore, had won its 2017 Safety Award for the launch of HxGN Mine VIS, the world’s first vehicle intervention system for mining.
Mining Magazine readers vote annually for nominees in a variety of award categories, celebrating those they believe have demonstrated outstanding commitment to advancing the face of mining.
Fabien Kritter of Hexagon Mining and Mzwandile Buthelezi of AngloAmerican Kumba Iron Ore worked together to develop a vehicle intervention solution that would create an additional layer of safety around Hexagon Mining’s Collision Avoidance System (CAS). CAS protects more than 25,000 vehicles in mines around the world, including AngloAmerican Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine in South Africa.
VIS is now being installed at the mine, well ahead of government regulations compelling mine operators to install such technology on vehicles by June 2019.
Partnership key to product development
By working directly with mining companies, Hexagon Mining ensures product development responds to customer needs. AngloAmerican Kumba Iron Ore contacted Hexagon Mining after conducting an extensive risk assessment of its operation at Sishen mine in South Africa.
“We’ve done a lot of work to identify where our risks are,” said Buthelezi. “We needed to comply with regulations in South Africa by June 2019. Vehicle intervention systems must be in place to ensure we have a safe operation.”
Together, the companies defined a step-by-step approach to develop VIS. The product detects and prevents collisions by automatically slowing down or even stopping a haul truck if an imminent collision is detected.
VIS takes control of a machine in certain situations if the operator does not react appropriately to a CAS warning. Depending on the situation, VIS can automatically cut the propulsion, apply the retarder or activate the service brakes.
Integrated with CAS, VIS uses the same sensors and user interface thus protecting the customer’s initial investment. CAS gives vehicle operators 360-degree proximity detection at any speed and in all conditions via unobtrusive cabin display units. For operators, CAS represents peace of mind. It helps operators work more confidently and productively, especially in poor visibility caused by rain, snow, and fog. It also helps at night when the system becomes invaluable, helping drivers to work more smoothly and efficiently.
“VIS is the ultimate contingency in the event an operator does not respond appropriately to a CAS alert,” said Kritter. “It manages the traffic in your pit and, by reacting when and if operators do not, it ensures safety rules are followed. It’s an additional layer of safety on top of CAS, and can save you millions of dollars by avoiding incidents, injuries and fatalities.
“It is also the only Level 9 system currently tested in field operation on the market.”
Level 9 refers to technologies that automatically intervene and take some form of machine control to prevent or mitigate an unsafe interaction.
Product development – ‘a journey’
Kritter described working on VIS with AngloAmerican as a journey.
“It’s very valuable as a product manager to have the feedback from the customer, to know and to work with them. Anglo has done a fantastic job of looking at ‘where do I have a problem?’ It identifies a problem in the operation. … which technology you can apply to solve this problem. There was a lot of interaction and to get direct customer feedback has helped a lot to develop this product.”
VIS is now being installed in AngloAmerican’s Sishen and Kolomela mines where the product is expected to improve more than just safety.
“It’s been a very fruitful relationship,” said Buthelezi. “We’re continuing on this path with Hexagon Mining to ensure we have safer operations. But there’s a production aspect to it. Wherever you have a decline, we’ve got stop signs to make sure vehicles actually stop at every stop sign and not run out of control.
“But with systems that we’re planning on developing and deploying, that can be a smooth process; we can remove some of these stop signs therefore improving productivity. Although safety is top of mind, production is something we also value.”
Kritter is convinced that VIS is a model for future product development.
“I think this is how you can successfully develop products,” he said. “It’s not being in the office between four walls that you will develop a successful product; it’s really through interacting with the customer.”
Buthelezi agreed. “It’s been a very interesting journey,” he said. “We had the ability to exchange ideas. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t, but that’s part of the process. But one thing I must say – I appreciate Hexagon Mining is flexible to some of the requirements that come because we’ll be on one journey path and from what we’ve seen, what we learn during the journey, we change the end goal, but we’re able to maneuver to accommodate some of those requirements.
“Some other suppliers would have said, ‘this is what you wanted, this is what we’re going to give you, and nothing else’. So, there’s been a good relationship in terms of making sure we get to a product that we’re all happy with.”