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Tech, Safety Power-Drive Mining Changes

03 February, 2023

Mining is changing mostly because of new tech and safety improvements, which are power driving profits and sustainability.

A new era of mining is rising. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and other industry leaders, that's because there's more interest in seeing mining progress. Environmental, safety, and profitability expectations are shifting, which are turning the heads of key investors. Mine owners are making better decisions to ensure more sustainability and transparency, to drive long-term loyalty, and to secure a competitive edge for better profitability. Part of mining's newfound success lies in mitigating yesterday's hazards by focusing on the integration of new technology and dedication to improving safety.

Key Safety Improvements

While historically mining has been a danger-filled profession, the industry has improved workplace safety dramatically in the past 10 years. However, dangers persist. In 2018, there were 5,754 injuries and 27 fatalities in the mining industry: coal, metal, non-facility, surface or underground. The leading cause of miner fatalities in 2018 was powered haulage. So far in 2019, there have been 21 mining deaths, according to MSHA reports

Some of the key concerns in mining 4.0 are:

  • Powered haulage: This includes mining vehicle collisions, conveyor safety, and a lack of lockout tagout programs or controls.
  • Noise: Ground scrapers, drills, mechanical vibration, and other mining equipment can cause ear damage and hearing loss.
  • Dust: Mining activities can produce breathing hazards from coal dust, silica dust, and other fine materials. Control air particles that can damage the lungs and airways.
  • Chemicals: Whether in gold extraction or other precious materials, chemicals including cyanide, sulfuric acid and others should be marked properly according to chemical labeling standards.

MSHA is launching campaigns that address key mining hazards. Reinforcing safety even further, earlier this year, MSHA made a major upgrade to its primary data system ? the Mine Data Retrieval System (MDRS) ? to better help operators monitor their compliance and report their safety information.

"The new Mine Data Retrieval System will simplify the process for operators and others to obtain key data points and compare the safety of their mines with industry standards," MSHA Assistant Secretary David Zatezalo said.

Also, for a fifth year, none of the nation's more than 13,000 mining operations met the criteria for a Pattern of Violations (POV). This is strong operating performance measurement in the industry as stakeholders push mining into another industrial revolution.

Strong Operating Performances

"One thing is clear - mining requires far more than good financial performance in order to realize value in a sustainable manner," commented Jock O'Callaghan, Global Leader, Mining & Metals, PwC Australia, in a mining projection report.

"We are proud of our record of achievement in health and safety, environmental sustainability and community involvement. (O)ur employees are contributing to innovation in the workplace and the sustainability of their communities," Agnico Eagle mining said after earning several awards. The company received safety and health recognition in the past year for the lowest accident rates, maintaining strict levels of regulatory compliance, teamwork, and innovation, and achieving the highest level in safety program performance. 

Digital and technological innovation has the potential to improve productivity, safety and environmental management in the mining industry. Some of the growing technological capabilities in mining are smart mines to increase digital intelligence; blockchain, which provides a way to streamline and create transparency; drones and other tech to conduct evaluations in physically dangerous areas; and securing the workforce through automation and trade work pushes to help overcome the skills gap and the mining industry's reputation.

Improving safety and quality control remains paramount in the mining industry. Mining companies and contractors can easily protect miners from the deadliest hazards using safety best practices along with trusted tools and equipment. Easily download our free guide to Mine Safety Best Practices. Sustain or improve site safety, reduce costs, and edge the competition. Download a copy of our Continuous Improvement in Mining guide.