Common Risks Overlooked in Mining Operations
The mining industry has a reputation for being a battlefield. It encompasses 'survival of the fittest' working conditions, futuristic machinery ready to end your life at any minute and unforeseeable gases at every turn. It’s no wonder why the industry holds one of the highest fatality rates among occupations.
The key to staying safe (and alive) is learning the risks associated with mining. Although shafts and tunnels can cave in or flood and ventilation can fail, these are the most common risks overlooked in mining operations.
Believe it or not, noise is one of the most common errors miners forget to take into consideration when preparing for work. Mine sites, especially underground, are filled with constant and blaring drilling and heavy machinery sounds, which can lead to hearing impairment.
To avoid potential hearing damage, companies should evaluate working conditions and noise exposure through risk assessments. Proper use of personal hearing protection is vital and necessary for health and safety purposes.
Open-pit mining requires long hours outdoors and significant exposure to sunlight. The result is an increase for overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation, which can lead to dehydration, headaches, nausea, melanomas, and worse, skin cancer.
To combat the sunny rays of death, miners should continually find the most effective way of reducing exposure using a combination of protection methods. These include: appropriate protective clothing, constant application of sunscreen, and options to avoid peak times of UV rays.
The inhalation of coal dust is a serious concern for coal miners. Know in the industry as “miner’s lung” or “black lung”, coal dust has the inherent ability to cause shortness of breath, scarring of lung tissue, and ongoing respiratory issues. Although legal regulations have been enforced, new cases of coal dust still occur among miners.
Whole body vibration
If the body is a-rockin, you may have WBV.
Whole body vibration (WBV) occurs when vibration of any kind is transferred to the body. As you can imagine, this physical hazard frequently takes places in work involving heavy machinery.
“In the mining environment, WBV can be caused either by spending a lot of time sitting on machinery, which is most of the time in mining extraction, or by standing, such as working on jumbo operators. Some forms of vibration are ok, but they become dangerous when they involve uneven surfaces, vehicle activity such as ripping versus pushing material in a bulldozer, and engine vibrations,” says Megan Clark, mining medicine researcher.
According to Clark, symptoms include: vision impairment, musculoskeletal disorders, reproductive damage in females, and cardiovascular changes.
Exposure to harmful chemicals is just a typical day in the neighborhood for miners. To prevent chemical accidents like burns, respiratory problems and poisoning, mining companies should have a standard operating procedure (SOP) that addresses chemical use and handling, disposal, and personal protective equipment. Another important factor in minimizing chemical exposure is ventilation.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.