May 17, 2020

New report aims to improve safety in Western Australia's mining sector

mine sites
Department of Mines and Petr
3 min
New report aims to improve safety in Western Australia's mining sector

TheDepartment of Mines and Petroleum(DMP) aims to improve the overall safety of mining activities in Western Australia, releasing a new report that ou...

The Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) aims to improve the overall safety of mining activities in Western Australia, releasing a new report that outlines the groundwork to reducing mining fatalities and injuries in the region.

The ‘Serious Injury Review’ report analyzed 658 serious mining injuries, including three fatalities, during a six month period from July to December 2013 to gain a better understanding of how serious accidents unfold. The report also assessed 52 fatal accidents between 2000 and 2012 to better understand how to prevent them from having fatal outcomes.

The three main hazards identified in the report are: falling while working at height; being in the line of fire from objects or suspended loads; and being struck or crushed by machines or heavy components.

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“The key objective of both these reports was to develop a better understanding of the injury risk profile of the State’s mining industry,” said Andrew Chaplyn, Department of Mines and Petroleum engineer.

“These risk profiles have been compared to establish if the hazards and causation factors identified from the recent serious injury data are consistent with the results of the fatal accident review.

“Both the serious injury review and the fatal accident review have independently identified the three main hazards for all employees.

“They are falling while working at height, being in the line of fire for objects or suspended loads, and being struck or crushed by machines and heavy components.”

According to the report, 75 percent to 80 percent of the fatalities involved repeated scenarios which included vehicle collisions, runaway vehicles, electrical contacts, rock falls beyond the limit of supported ground, pit wall failures and the in-rush situations in underground mines.

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Mines and Petroleum Minister, Bill Marmion, said: “Despite a fatality-free year in 2012 and six deaths in 2009, there have been, on average, two to three deaths a year on Western Australian mine sites. This report identifies an annual average of 200 high-consequence injuries, which have very similar causal factors to fatalities.”

“The risk profiles identified in the review will help the industry better understand how to avoid dangerous and sometimes lethal workplace risks,” the Minister said.

The report outlined several recommendations the industry could implement to prevent future accidents and fatalities from occurring, including improved hazard identification, supervision to ensure that workers were in compliance with procedures, and improved training and adequate breaks.

“Industry is committed to ensuring the safety and health of our workforce and will closely review these findings so that key lessons can be incorporated back on site,” said Reg Howard-Smith, Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy CEO.

“When it comes to safety there is absolutely no room for complacency. The resources sector will remain vigilant and work hard to ensure everyone gets home safe and well after finishing work.”

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Jul 20, 2021

British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars

3 min
The ever-increasing need for electric vehicles is mounting pressure on British Lithium as the 2035 deadline inches closer

The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change. 

It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.

British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad. 

Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe 

After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company. 

“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”

Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector. 

Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial. 

Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production

“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”

The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction. 

Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably. 

“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.

“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”

Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK. 

“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”

Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.

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