Psychology of safe mining: What mine managers need to know
Approaching and implementing safety is somewhat of an enigma in the mining sector. Is it more about applying daily reminders or creating a culture within the organization?
A major indicator of a company’s commitment to safety can be found in their number of accidents. The less number of injuries and fatalities the better. In addition, miners typically use leading and lagging indicators to rate their performance and measure areas of improvement.
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And while it appears safety in the mining industry is reaching new heights, the numbers simply don’t lie. Fatalities continue to be recorded all across the mining sector. In fact, Queensland, Australia – one of the top mining jurisdictions in the world – just recorded its worst year for mine fatalities in two decades.
According to industrial psychologist Corrie Pitzer, mine managers need to dramatically rethink their approach to safety.
"The better we become with managing safety, the worse we become in leading the culture of safety," said Pitzer, president of SAFEmap International, a leading provider of competency based training solutions for the mining, processing and manufacturing industries.
Pitzer said companies spend too much time and resources on small injuries, which leads to damaging ‘fear’. "[It introduces] fear to upset the apple cart, fear to respond and notify when things aren't going right.”
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According to Pitzer, management is a science and leadership is an art, where leaders share their passion and inspire others.
"That's the difference between leading an organization and managing it; when you lead them, you give people the comfort to fail, and you support them when they fail."
The first step to reverse the mining industry’s current trend, according to Pitzer, is to first define safety. "The readiness to respond to risks - if you define it that way, you take completely different ways; if you truly care about people, you make different decisions."
According to Pitzer, human beings are incredibly capable entities, but are treated as stupid when it comes to safety. He believes emboldening workers would achieve different results.
"If we have designed our [safety systems] around the opposition notion - that humans are incredible, humans are awesome - you'd get completely different outcomes; you'd get people inspired, wanting to contribute, and making huge successes happen for the organization," said Pitzer.
Corrie Pitzer is a specialist in behavioral safety and strategic safety management, and is a leading consultant in this field throughout Australia, North America, South America and South Africa. His work is based on extensive research which resulted in his establishing a new concept in safety: (Risk) Competency-based Safety (CBS).
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.