[VIDEO] 4 ways mining simulators enhance preparation of miners
There are massive benefits to utilizing mining simulators for personnel training. This approach holds immense value for mining companies looking to enhance preparation of miners because it offers a quick and cost-effective way to significantly improve the skills and productivity of equipment operators.
Safety, productivity, cost-savings, and recruitment and skill development are just a few benefits these virtual reality devices offer.
Nestled into the chair of the simulator, operators can be trained on emergency situations from brake failure to engine fire without risk to person or property.
According to surface and underground mining simulator developer ThoroughTech, operators are placed in situational scenarios to gain not only the experience, but the knowledge to respond correctly and in a timely manner.
“Further, trainees are able to operate in all weather conditions and all times of day. The training develops an operator that is more aware of surrounding and possible dangerous situations, which, in return, ensures lower accident rates and accidents severity.”
In the end, simulators promote safety among operators. They allow trainees to see the consequences of their actions without posing any physical harm to the personnel, machinery or environment.
The obvious reason simulators improve cost-savings is that actual mining equipment remains unused during training. Instead of being taken out of the production cycle for training, and incurring more costs such as fuel, simulators provide an equally comparable training opportunity for operators—for less cost. Not to mention, the wear and tear on the machinery is greatly reduced.
The core function that mining simulators accomplish is increasing productivity. They do so by assisting operators in effectively improving their skill sets, which therefore allows trainees to operate actual machinery with better skill, knowledge and attitude.
“We know that equipment performance is heavily dependent on operator skill, knowledge and attitude. Our unique approach ensures our customers focus on the right issues that will deliver the highest returns. We work closely with mining customers and OEM’s to ensure the technology is properly integrated and quantified results are achieved,” says Bryant Mullaney, Global Professional Services Manager, Immersive Technologies.
Recruitment and skill development
From situational settings to continuous practice, mining simulators provide a wealth of advantages in developing, improving and refining skill sets in trainees. The machines also have potential to assist in recruitment.
According to Mining Weekly, Barrick Gold – the world’s largest gold producer – used a mining simulator to appraise prospective employees to substantiate their qualifications as stated on their job applications. Barrick was able to distinguish the top talent employees from the inexperienced ones, eliminating the risk of employing sub-standard machine operators.
Rio Tinto partners with ARENA for green hydrogen research
Rio Tinto has partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to study whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in alumina refineries to reduce emissions.
Rio Tinto and ARENA partnering for green energy push
Rio Tinto will conduct a $1.2mn feasibility study, equally funded with ARENA through a $580,000 grant, into using clean hydrogen to replace natural gas in the calcination process of refining at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.
The study program includes work to be done at Rio Tinto’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, where Rio Tinto’s in-house development capability has now been extended to hydrogen.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller commented: “If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.
“This study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from Rio Tinto’s study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia, but also internationally.”
Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations acting managing director Daniel van der Westhuizen added: “We see the ARENA and Rio Tinto-funded study as a step towards reducing refinery emissions and one that has the potential to play an important part in Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonisation.
“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.
“We recognise we are on a long road towards reducing emissions across our operations and there is clearly more work to be done. But projects such as this are an important part of helping us get there.”
Can hydrogen replace natural gas in alumina refineries?
The study comprises two distinct work packages:
- Preliminary engineering and design study conducted to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the Yarwun alumina refinery.
- Simulating the calcination process using a lab scale reactor at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre.
Once complete, the study will inform the viability of a potential demonstration project. Rio Tinto has lodged patents for the hydrogen calcination process.
Rio Tinto aiming for net zero by 2050
Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15% reduction in absolute emissions and a 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.
Aluminium is found in everything from cars to phones. But one of the challenges of producing this essential material responsibly is finding ways to decarbonise the process.
Part of the reason is creating alumina – the main ingredient in aluminium – takes a lot of energy, which in turn creates greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will be essential to helping reduce emissions, but many haven’t been proven. And some not yet even discovered. Rio Tinto's transformation is being driven by innovation and its partnership with ARENA is a positive step towards these goals.