Using automation to increase mining safety


Increasing-mining-safety-through-isolation-automation-655906-lThe implementation of automated isolation system from Ampcontrol Pty Ltd is enabling operators to carry out automatic isolation on conveyors, improving safety, efficiency and productivity at the mine site. The Australian mining industry has been able to reduce accident and injury rates onsite, due in part to the introduction of induction, process and procedural controls. Engineering solutions routinely employ automation to simplify and control plant operation and can be applied to procedural safety and operational management.

The implementation of automated isolation provides a significant improvement to overall site safety and ensures isolation is done as per system design specification every time, providing a consistent and efficient approach that minimises human intervention and eliminates margin for human error. Automated isolation, just as with any automated system, results in immediate productivity improvements. Key gains include a reduction in the required level of competence of operators, in addition to eliminating the need for high-level electricians, and decreasing handling and travel time associated with manual isolation.

Ampcontrol’s innovative 3-wire isolation system enables remote and automated isolation to be undertaken by one operator in minutes from the location of the breakdown. On the other hand, a manual isolation typically requires the operator to travel to the isolation points, and also needs an electrician. The benefits of remote isolation are even more considering the increasing length and complexity of modern conveyors. Manual isolation can take 30 minutes even on short conveyors. With automated isolation, the effort required from the operator is reduced significantly, eliminating any temptation to take shortcuts to override or manually intervene in the proper isolation process.

Remote isolation is easily integrated into existing site procedures via personal locks or group lock boxes. It can achieve up to SIL2 compliance as part of a system assessment. Equipment utilised in Ampcontrol’s remote isolation systems includes iMAC monitoring and control units, pull keys, and Voicecom communication devices. Control equipment such as belt wander, speed monitoring or temperature inputs can be integrated utilising iMAC’s remote IO capability.

There is no need for a central control station as Ampcontrol’s pull key devices are located along the entire length of the system, allowing faster response times and safer personnel movement. Ampcontrol’s remote isolation system uses the pull keys to provide swift notification of isolation both to the operator and other personnel working on the conveyor. Ongoing audible isolation status updates continue to provide information about the condition of the equipment.