The mining industry is rife with innovation due to the ever-increasing list of benefits that technology brings. BHP is continuously developing its systems for operational efficiency and to minimise occupational hazards.
The company’s Technology and Fixed Plant team have developed an innovative remote-controlled machine for thermal lancing, which reduces operational hazards. Thermal lancing is one of the main occupational hazards across BHP’s operations. It uses pressurised oxygen, fed through a steel tube packed with steel rods, to create a high temperature for cutting.
“The issue, however, is that the way the lance is traditionally used may expose our people to uncontrolled release of stored energy. In the mining and construction industries, this has on occasion caused serious injury. This led our team to commission a local vendor in Western Australia, DSM Consulting Engineers, to help produce a remotely operated thermal tool which eliminates the potential risk to our operators,” says BHP.
The development of a remote solution minimises the need for operatives to step into the crushing bowl when blockages occur. The remote thermal lancing tool is attached to a rock breaker and can be used to remove stuck materials at a distance. The lance has been designed with a wirelessly connected camera to observe the stuck materials and can also be lit remotely.
“This tool, which was cheap to develop, lightweight and locally manufactured, is really a game-changer for thermal lancing activities at our mines. Critically, it removes operators from the line of fire, but it also gives them better visibility of the lodged objects when they’re trying to remove them. It also can be used in other thermal lancing applications such as rail cutting and demolition. We are really keen to get the word out about this solution so that other areas of our business and other companies can begin using the same technology. It’s an important innovation that can potentially save lives and avoid serious injuries, so we are very open to sharing this concept with whoever can benefit from it,” says Kim Tan, BHP Specialist Engineer.
BHP is licensing the design of this lancing tool so it can commission manufacturers like DSM to build the tool for organisations that require them - on a royalty-free basis.