Philippines Mining Sector Can Benefit From Simulation
PHILIPPINE RESOURCES – AUGUST 2014
With advanced mining training simulation making fast inroads into the Asia Pacific region, including countries such as Australia, Indonesia and Mongolia, it’s clear that this technology is being seen by more and more mining companies as a sound investment to improve operator safety and proficiency.
With its vast mineral wealth, it’s hoped that the Philippines will start following this trend towards simulation soon. The archipelago is rich in copper, chromium, gold and silver and produces over 10% of the world’s nickel.
But there are certainly some key challenges that lie ahead in the Philippines mining sector and surrounding region. With several mine operations looking to move from surface to underground mining, there is a need to train operators to make the transition quickly and efficiently. Normally this would require equipment to be taken out of the working fleet for operators to train on, but with simulation this problem can be circumvented.
“At full capacity the mine was using their simulators up to 20 hours a day across all cab types.”
“Because mine vehicles are being used for fewer training tasks, the associated running costs of training are greatly reduced,” says Greg Lew, Executive Vice President of Global Business Development at training simulator provider, ThoroughTec Simulation.
“Damage and wear-and-tear on mine vehicles decreases as operators are able to familiarise themselves with the controls of the machines and iron out their mistakes on the simulator instead of the real machine. This means less unscheduled maintenance and lower maintenance and training costs.”
According to the Philippines Mine Safety and Environment Association for the Fiscal Year 2012 – 2013, there were 20 nonfatal lost time accidents in underground mines and 20 in surface mines. Over the same period the industry suffered seven and four fatalities respectively. The Philippines mining sector needs to invest in ways to lower these accident and fatality rates. Simulation is designed to achieve exactly this.
ThoroughTec already has experience in helping a mine develop its workforce before it starts underground operations. During construction of its underground mine, Rio Tinto’s massive Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold operation in Mongolia utilised ThoroughTec’s fourth-generation CYBERMINE Full Mission Simulators (FMS) for an ADT, bolter, LHD and shotcrete sprayer. A key part of the project was employing and up-skilling local Mongolians because there was no real skill pool for underground mining in the country, this is why simulators were so vital.
At full capacity the mine was using their simulators up to 20 hours a day across all cab types. The latest version of CYBERMINE has been upgraded with many new features including full 360° panoramic display, enhanced reporting software and two HD instructor screens in an improved classroom-like design.
The specified cabs were purposely chosen to cover the main development activities at the mine and afforded all employees valuable training experience before heading underground. A custom mine world developed by ThoroughTec accurately replicated the tunnel geometry and operating conditions.
Back to the Philippines and another challenge is ensuring the existing operator workforce is up-skilled in conjunction with training novice operators to become Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), so they can ply their trade overseas and earn money for their families.
There is a mixed perception in this region when it comes to simulation however. “We have found that mines that have been exposed to simulators know that it is a powerful tool to develop an operator workforce for greater mining efficiencies as well as the safest means to train local communities who are interested in becoming operators,” says Lew.
But in some cases, those who have not been exposed to simulator training feel it is unnecessary. There is a drive in this region to change this perception, as it’s a proven tool to enhance training effectiveness.
“CYBERMINE4 software automatically identifies operational violations such as speeding, simultaneous brake and accelerator engagement and incorrect gear selection, to which the instructor can then take corrective action with the student to eliminate these violations and thus save the mine a fortune in unnecessary maintenance bills and prevent hazardous safety situations,” says Lew.
As an example, Sandvik, one of ThoroughTec’s longstanding customers, was experiencing excessive breakdowns of their machines at a mine site and could not identify any mechanical fault. Sandvik suggested that the mine operators brush up their skills on Sandvik’s CYBERMINE4 simulator system.
They soon discovered that many operators were scoring high on the fault: ‘Used the accelerator and brake pedal simultaneously.’ This was due to the operators resting their foot on the brake pedal instead of the foot rest, causing an increase in wear and tear. Upon completion of the simulator training course the problem disappeared and the mine site enjoyed a considerable reduction in maintenance costs.
ThoroughTec is continuously receiving reports from mines about how their CYBERMINE advanced mining training simulators aid in the recruitment process, and improve productivity and reaction times in emergency situations.
“More and more mine operators are realising the advantages that simulation can bring to their mine sites,” says Lew.
Recently, ThoroughTec expanded its range of training products to include the CYBERMINE Computer Based Trainer (CBT) and Operator Familiarisation Trainer (OFT). This broad range of simulators helps walk novice recruits through the various stages of training.
The CBT is the first part of the comprehensive training programme and introduces a new recruit to a particular vehicle’s basic controls and operation, as well as the mine environment, site operating procedures and safety checks.
“It was developed in collaboration with recognised training specialists and makes use of 2D and 3D computer animations, video, audio and still photographs displayed on a high performance off-theshelf PC,” says Greg Lew, ThoroughTec’s Executive Vice President of Business Development.
A wide variety of course topics are available, including machine introduction, roles and responsibilities, standard operating procedures, occupational health and safety, production techniques and machine operation in emergency situations. All users and their results can be recorded on a central database.
Next up is the OFT which is designed to increase the depth of their knowledge once the trainee has mastered the theory on the CBT. “The OFT operates as an alternative, limited function base-unit for CYBERMINE’s high-fidelity interchangeable vehicle cabs and is designed to familiarise operators with the identification and operation of the instruments and controls of a specific vehicle,” says Lew.
Students interface with the OFT system via HD touch-screen display and through the various instruments and controls of the replicated cab. Three different modes (Exploration, Training and Evaluation Modes) allow for a complete familiarisation, learning and evaluation process, while all users and results can be recorded on a central database.
The OFT adds significant value to a training programme by allowing operators to make use of your CYBERMINE cabs even when the FMS is being used, so that the capital invested is providing optimal return.
This three-pronged product offensive is topped off by the flagship Full Mission Simulator (FMS) which comes either containerised for easy transportation or as a fixed facility for training school type situations.
ThoroughTec has a global customer base that includes companies such as Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Goldcorp, Newmont, Rio Tinto and Vale. They’re also proud of their vast range of surface and underground equipment simulators, including ADTs, bolters, continuous miners, double drum winches, dozers, draglines, drill rigs, excavators, graders, haul trucks, heavy duty haulers, LHDs, light utility vehicles, locomotives, personnel carriers, scalers, shotcrete sprayers, shovels, shuttle cars, tracked loaders and wheel loaders.
So far, OEM cabs simulated by the firm include Atlas Copco, Bell, Bucyrus, CAT, DUX, Fermel, Fletcher, Goodman, Hitachi, Joy, Komatsu, Le Tourneau, Liebherr, Maclean, Marion, MTI, Normet, O&K Terrex, P&H, Salzgitter, Sandvik, Sullivan, Taiyuan Heavy Industry, Toyota, Trident and Volvo.
ThoroughTec already has a solid footprint in the Asia Pacific region with previous sales to Argyle Diamond Mine, Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines, Northparkes Mine and Wesfarmers Curragh (Australia); Balai Diklat Tambang Bawah Tanah (BDTBT) and Grasberg Mine (Indonesia); and Oyu Tolgoi (Mongolia).