May 17, 2020

How technology can effectively manage and improve fatigue in mining

mine sites
3 min
How technology can effectively manage fatigue in mining
Data doesnt lie.According to recent studies, approximately 90 percent of accidents in the mining industry occur from human error. The majority of these...

Data doesn’t lie.

According to recent studies, approximately 90 percent of accidents in the mining industry occur from human error. The majority of these accidents, which typically occur from mining machinery, are the result of driver fatigue and distraction.

For mining companies, there are direct and indirect consequences from fatigue. Direct effects include: lower productivity; equipment damage/premature maintenance, property damage; and fatalities, injuries and related expenses (lost time, medical expenses, workers compensation, legal expenses and regulatory fines). Indirect consequences may include everything from incident investigations, absenteeism to change in morale, higher turn-over rate and health, sleeping disorders.

Without a doubt, technology-enabled solutions have the ability to change that by monitoring, predicting, measuring and reducing fatigue events.

Caterpillar’s Fatigue Practice Manager Todd Dawson, a fatigue science expert with 20 years of experience building Fatigue Risk Management Systems, recommends three technological systems that will make immediate improvements to fatigue and distraction levels on site.  

Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (FAST)

One of the many tools used by Rio Tinto, FAST is a software system used to analyze specific schedules to determine vulnerabilities. It generates graphical predictions of performances along with tables of estimated effectiveness scores for objective comparison.

Cat Smartband

Developed by Fatigue Science, this wrist-worn device automatically detects an employee’s sleep and wake periods and converts data into an effectiveness score. Using Caterpillar’s Smartband system, supervisors can review sleep and performance data for employees, filtering by specific groups and dates.

• Related content: [VIDEO] Improving fleet management with Caterpillar's MineStar technology

With data from the smartband, mining companies can incorporate it into the Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool to get a clear vision of their current state, as well as tools to help managers schedule workers for increased safety and performance.

Driver Safety System (DSS)

Used primarily in Caterpillar’s MineStar technology, DSS is a non-intrusive way to manage safety in real-time. It uses a camera, which is embedded in the vehicle, to detect a driver’s pupil size, how frequently they blink and how long they keep their eyes shut. It also monitors the driver’s mouth in order to analyze when the driver is distracted and not looking at the road.

The purpose of DSS is to detect the onset of micro-sleep – fractions of seconds where a person has fallen asleep without realizing it. When micro-sleep is detected, an alarm will sound and the driver seat will shake, sending visual recordings to a monitoring center that will review the situation. IF fatigue is detected, the monitoring center will notify a supervisor at the mine-site.

The system has been installed in over 5,000 Caterpillar trucks, recording roughly 6,000 fatigue events and 1.5 million distraction alerts. The results are frightening. According to Caterpillar, over 1,641 miles have been traveled while drivers were asleep.

Although technology has the ability to significantly improve accidents among miners, it’s not a one-stop shop solution.

According to Dawson, the key is an effective Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS), which utilizes multiple layers of protection to minimize the risk of fatigue hazards becoming incidents.

“The Fatigue Risk Management System process is most effective when deployed in the sequence Engage, Assess, Define, Develop, Implement and Check. Each phase can also be used individually to help you reach specific goals.”

The system concentrates on having a process to identify the problem, fitting the solution to the problem (behavioral, physiological, operational) and managing the change (educating all involved parties, having clear prcedures for outcomes, follow up and improve). 

• Related content: Caterpillar: How to ensure the successful deployment of autonomous haulage

Todd Dawson leads a team of Caterpillar safety culture consultants who work alongside customers to develop operational excellence through safety improvement. Over the past 20 years, Todd has become one of the leading experts in developing and implementing comprehensive fatigue risk management systems in large, complex environments. He has played an integral role in shaping the landscape of fatigue management, particularly in the transportation, mining and oil/gas industries.

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Jun 30, 2021

Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech

Rio Tinto
3 min
Rio Tinto and Alcoa’s JV project ELYSIS has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint

Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.

ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production

ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.

The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.

The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).

The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.

The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.

ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.

ELYSIS technology at a glance:

  • The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
  • The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
  • In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
  • ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.

ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.

Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.


Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”

Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”

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