Technology Tightens Mining Safety
Tevin Wang | Date:
The fact that mining sites are in remote locations creates significant challenges for service delivery. Long distances, combined with high risks associated with the industry, leave mining security and safety a lot of room for improvement.
The first step in managing site security issues is to identify and assess all risk factors applicable to the individual site. “When assessing sites for a solution fit, we take the approach of understanding how the site operates from a who-where-when- why point of view,” said Evan Morgans, Strategic Program Manager at Gallagher. “Covering of all aspects of who is allowed to access a specific area at what times, and most importantly, why that person is going to an area which is tied to licenses, inductions and competencies held by the person.” Whether that person going to an area holds the necessary licenses, inductions and competencies required.
Dave Erchull, VP of Global Risk Partners, agreed. “Security needs also change as the mine evolves. Increased production means more gold and silver may be stored on site. Even new construction, additions to the mining property, and the opening of new ore deposits can have an impact on security practices. Yet, rarely does a mine consider new security practices as a high priority.”
“The key to reducing the security risk is to look at how the mine is keeping the product safe, controlling access to the product, maintaining good camera coverage and installing an adequate alarm system,” Erchull added. “Solutions must be customized based on several factors including mine site, the product, what level of refining is done on site and [in] remoteness.”
“From a security point of view, there is a lot of additional security on mines around gold rooms and diamond sorting rooms, or high value products,” Morgans said. It is done in consultation with the site and risk analysis, by comparing the cost benefits of a given solution and the damage that could incur from a possible loss of products. “Depending on the physical environment, we install perimeter security solutions around these locations where it can deter, detect or delay intruders attempting access.”
Although perimeter fencing is important, mines are often open and outsiders are often allowed in. Moreover, perimeter fencing is often impractical due to the large and difficult landscape of mine sites. “North American mines have very lax perimeter security, which allows criminals to enter the property and get close to areas where the precious metals are stored and loaded,” Erchull warns. “The prospect of several million dollars of gold can tempt many hardened criminals. The threat isn't only to the mine's product. An armed robbery that takes place during the work day is a threat to the employees.”
“We recommend doing perimeter security with a combination of technologies including electrified fences and various sensors that can detect changes in wire tension, wires being cut, or a fence panel being lifted out or tilted,” said Morgans.
Video surveillance combining video, audio, thermal images with access control can be integrated with perimeter security. “By associating thermal camera with intrusion algorithm to a powerful PTZ dome lets operators get a more reliable monitoring of large areas while [the] PTZ feature keeps [an] alerted area under surveillance,” said Andrea Sorri, Director of Government, City Surveillance and Critical Infrastructure Development, Axis Communications.
Geo-fencing areas can be first created with different security layers. For instance, anyone entering the outdoor area of the mine, the so-called “green area” is watched by cameras. In that area the focus is on a general surveillance whereby faces must be clearly identifiable. In the pre-sorting area where the precious materials are already present, recording should be linked to the access control system, which means that the recording only starts when someone enters the area. The access data of the person is subsequently linked with the video image so that the security personnel always have the personal data as well as the image on hand.