STUDY: Tragic Mistakes Often Attributed to Inexperienced Supervisors
Responsible mining organizations readily acknowledge that the most successful mining operations are not those that mine the largest volume of target minerals and ore. Instead, the most successful mining operations are those that consistently operate with zero harm to their miners.
Here, we inspect the report Fatal accidents in the Western Australian mining industry 2000-2012 - What lessons can we learn?, taking a closer look at the role of inexperienced supervisors in this tragic formula. This report examines the 52 fatal mining accidents that occurred in Western Australia over the 13-year period from 2000 to 2012.
It's of special interest to note that not all mining related accidents and fatalities are caused by a lack of involvement on the part of the on-site supervisors. In fact, some of the fatalities listed in the study have been attributed to supervisor interference. This fatalistic interaction highlights the necessity of increased comprehensive on-site, hands-on training and experience of the supervisors involved. Supervisor related training must always transcend theory and lead to consistently safe application. This, of course, is directly tied with the level of each on-site supervisor’s working experience.
Within the parameters of this study, supervisor interference is considered one of multiple accident triggers. Other commonly occurring accident triggers include equipment not restrained/supported or isolated, excessive speed, forklift attachment not secured properly, runaway vehicle, electrics "live" not isolated, working in area without ground supports, no safety precautions taken and safety harness not used or used incorrectly.
While miners should already be trained in all these areas, factors such as inexperience of non-supervisor miners, exhaustion and pressure to deliver on performance goals combine to create dangerous working conditions. It is the job of the on-site supervisors to provide safety checks for all these accident triggers before, during and after every phase of mining operations. Competent, experienced supervisors know to monitor and act on all of these factors.
Compliance with Safety Procedures
Unfortunately, from the study, we do see that there were compliance measures in place for the specific tasks that were being worked on when the fatalities occurred. As shown in the study, it is clear that the hazards associated with the work were known in most cases, with a procedure available to guide people in the task in 73 per cent of fatal accidents. However, in 89 per cent of fatal accidents, there was either no procedure in place or the procedures or rules were not complied with.
Granted, one could argue that the potential hazards involved with these fatalities were simply not perceived. But the more powerful argument here is that experienced supervisors posses a much greater practiced ability of hazard recognition. It’s rare that completely unique fatalities occur; those without preexisting precautionary measures and safety compliance. Therefore, a significant point of experience required for supervisors on active mining sites is a comprehensive vision that sees potential danger before the day’s operations even begin. This includes recognizing potential hazards of the specific tasks for that day and making sure all those in their charge are well aware of and actually execute the relevant safety compliance measures.
Preventable Mining Fatalities through Increased Experience
Vital to the increasing safety of miners is the continuation of cooperation and information sharing throughout the mining industry. Mining corporations’ improvement should be achieved through a more rigorous application of the hierarchy of control, and better targeting of preventative action programs and activities. Furthermore, the statistical significance of inexperience as it relates to supervisors on mine sites suggest that mining organizations should consider more comprehensive on-site apprenticeships, granting more time for inexperienced supervisors to closely mirror and replicate the safe operations of more experienced supervisors.
Global iron ore production to recover by 5.1% in 2021
Global iron ore production fell by 3% to 2.2bnt in 2020. Global production is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% to 2,663.4Mt between 2021 to 2025. The key contributors to this grow will be Brazil (6.2%), South Africa (4.1%), Australia (3.2%) and India (2.9%). Key upcoming projects expected to commence operations include South Flank in Australia (2021), Zulti in South Africa (H2 2021), Serrote Da Laje in Brazil (H2 2021) and Gudai-Darri (2022), according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData, comments: “Declines from Brazil and India were major contributors to the reduced output in 2020. Combined production from these two countries fell from a collective 638.2Mt in 2019 to an estimated 591.1Mt in 2020. The reduced output from the iron ore giant, Vale, was the key factor behind Brazil’s reduced output, while delays in the auctioning of mines in Odisha affected India’s output in 2020.
“Miners in Australia were relatively unaffected by COVID-19 due to effective measures adopted by the Australian Government, while a speedy recovery in China led to a significant 10.4% increase in the country’s iron ore output.”
Looking ahead, the global iron ore production is expected to increase by 111.3Mt to 2,302.5Mt in 2021. Rio Tinto is expected to produce up to 340Mt of iron ore, while BHP has released production guidance of 245–255Mt, supported by the start of the Samarco project in December, which is expected to produce between 1–2Mt.The company has retained its guidance for Australian mines at 276–286Mt on a 100% basis, due to scheduled maintenance work at its ore handling plant and tie-in activity at the Area C mine and South-Flank mine.
Bajaj added: “The remaining companies are expected to produce more than 600Mt of iron ore, including FMG, whose production is expected to range between 175–180Mt supported by its Eliwana mine that commenced operations in late December 2020, and Anglo American, which is expecting to produce between 64–67Mt. Vale is expected to resume 40Mt of its production capacity, taking its overall production capacity to 350Mt in 2021, with production guidance of 315-335Mt.”