Home » Minerals Council Proposes Aerial Mesh Support to Enhance Mining Safety

Minerals Council Proposes Aerial Mesh Support to Enhance Mining Safety

New Strategies Aim to Cut Down on Mining Accidents, With Technology at the Forefront of South Africa's Industry Overhaul.

by Adenike Adeodun

In a pioneering move to bolster safety within South Africa’s mining sector, the Minerals Council South Africa is exploring the widespread implementation of permanent aerial mesh support as a core component of its comprehensive fall-of-ground action plan. This initiative, announced during the Investing in African Mining Indaba, signifies a significant step towards mitigating the primary cause of mining incidents, promising a safer future for industry workers.

Dushendra Naidoo, the Minerals Council’s head of safety and sustainable development, highlighted the adoption of aerial mesh support in several mines and the ongoing evaluation for broader application. This approach forms part of a multifaceted strategy aimed at reducing the risk of fall-of-ground accidents, a persistent challenge in mining operations.

The council’s innovative safety measures extend beyond structural support, venturing into the realm of wearable technology with the testing of exoskeletons. These devices are designed to enhance human performance in demanding physical tasks, offering support to various body parts and reducing the energy exertion required for lifting, carrying, and operating heavy machinery. By integrating exoskeletons, the council aims to alleviate the physical strain associated with mining activities, particularly the barring process — the removal of loose rocks from mine ceilings and walls, a task fraught with risk and physical demand.

According to a report by Mining Weekly, Naidoo emphasized the potential of exoskeletons to revolutionize safety practices by distancing workers from hazardous conditions. With eight exoskeleton systems under examination, the council is determined to identify the most effective solution for the South African mining context, considering factors such as implementation feasibility, practicality, and cost-efficiency.

Another focus of the fall-of-ground action plan is the development of cleaner, more efficient drilling methods. The Isidingo rock drill, a locally developed innovation, promises cleaner and simpler drilling operations, paving the way for more effective blasting processes and offering an inclusive solution adaptable for female employees in underground roles.

The council’s rock engineering technical committee, composed of industry veterans with extensive expertise, plays a pivotal role in guiding these initiatives. Their insights are crucial in evaluating seismic monitoring systems and cleaner-cutting technologies, which could potentially eliminate the need for blasting in certain mining applications.

Despite the reduction in fall-of-ground fatalities from 22 in 2021 to six in 2022, the subsequent increase to 12 fatalities in the following year underscores the ongoing challenge of achieving zero harm in the industry. Japie Fullard, CEO of the Minerals Council’s Zero Harm Forum, stressed the importance of continuous effort and collaboration among mining houses to share best practices and implement effective safety interventions.

The council’s commitment to reducing safety incidents through technology, regulatory measures, and behavioral campaigns reflects a holistic approach to safety improvement. With a focus on root cause analysis and the relentless pursuit of zero harm, the Minerals Council South Africa is leading the charge towards a safer and more sustainable mining industry.

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