With GroundProbe’s “point and click” technology, incidents associated with slope failures should be the least of African open pit mines’ concerns
It is always wise for African open pit mines to regard the vulnerability of their slopes to failure. However, sadly, there is a high level of inadequate application of suitable monitoring mechanisms in some regions.
The biggest risk mines face is not predicting when and if the walls are going to collapse, observes Riaan Lotter, Sales and Contracts Manager (Africa and Europe) for GroundProbe, a highly regarded supplier of slope monitoring systems globally.
He says: “Failure might not happen every day but when it does it impacts people’s lives and operations on every level which includes production, equipment, profits budgets, governance, morale, strategies”.
But what could be preventing mines from investing in sound slope monitoring strategies that could, in the long run, increase profitability?
Lotter has learned that the level of risks and consequences determines the scope of a mine’s strategy. This explains why in spite of regularly attending exhibitions where there is a lot of emphasis on safety, only a few mines employ all the technology available for slope monitoring in spite of being aware of their vulnerability, he says.
Mines continue to buy non production or safety equipment if they absolutely have to after experiencing an incident, something which could have been forestalled in the first place, laments Lotter.
Reliable technology readily available
Fortunately, with affordable slope monitoring radar technology readily available, Lotter believes mines do not have an excuse not to implement effective slope monitoring strategies.
“Historically open pits were designed to minimise failures because it was so difficult to determine when the failure might occur. Using real time active monitoring allows you to be more aggressive in your design enabling you to increase your production and prove that you are serious about managing a real risk.”
GroundProbe was the first company to introduce radar technology which has revolutionised the whole open pit mining industry.Its SSR™ continues to fascinate mines throughout Africa.
Highlighting the SSR’s relevance, Lotter explains: “Mines mostly use prisms or point monitoring systems, lazer technology, synthetic aperture radar and real aperture radar.
“The SSR XT is one of the most advanced Slope Monitoring System and is referred to as Real Aperture Radar (RAR). The SSR covers the whole pit and data is not impacted by rain, dust, fog, smoke and other conditions.”
Real Aperture Radar is the most robust radar technology for high-confidence, real-time alarming, he adds. “It provides independent pixels and is mine pit geometry independent (works for both steep and shallow slopes). Furthermore, using the photograph image, SSR is simple point-and-click setup functionality and straight-forward processing (no need for mine plans and survey control).”
GroundProbe uses data quality check parameters in the system to ensure that the data is correct. Unlike other systems, SSR processing does not use statistical processing which can incorrectly process the data causing incorrect interpretations without the user knowing.
The RAR is offered in two applications:
$1a. Slope Stability Radar (SSR™) that is a trailer based system used to cover a larger area and to detect and alarm on any movement on the slope
$1b. Work Area Monitor (WAM™) which is a fast deployable vehicle based system used by production and drill crews for early warning of movement in the work area.
The SSR software is upgraded on a regular basis to improve user functions and reporting capabilities.
Furthermore, Lotter reveals, GroundProbe is in the process of testing a few new product concepts to include in our Slope Monitoring toolbox. “We understand there is no single solution and we want to make sure our customers have a wide selection of tools to meet their needs.”
Thus far, Lotter says, open pit mines throughout Africa have endorsed the technology, most of them praising its easy to use features and its comprehensive applications.
“GroundProbe has just supplied SSR XT number 200 and it was delivered to a mine in South Africa. We currently have more than 180 SSR radars operational and the countries include South Africa, Australia, North America, South America, Brazil, Indonesia, India and China.
“Most of the big mining companies have put their trust in GroundProbe’s technology and we have not yet missed a single failure in over 9 years.
“Having produced over 4.5 million hours of slope monitoring data you can benefit from our vast experience. Our geotechnical engineers are uniquely positioned to provide varying levels of training and support to you to improve your slope stability understanding and analysing skills.” Says Lotter.
In addition, according to Lotter, GroundProbe looks forward to supplying more of its products to mines in Africa, where, currently, there is more mining activity, and a high risk. “It does not mean that mines in Africa have poor slope stability monitoring, but they are not utilising the latest and most advanced systems.”
His sage advice to any CEO considering to acquire slope stability monitoring systems is to exercise due diligence. “If I have to rely on a piece of technology, I would have to consider experience, data accuracy, availability of data, frequency of the data, precision, training, support, and track record.”
The onus is on mines
Lotter questions the rationale of mines investing in millions in production equipment yet failing to protect it. “Technology is very affordable, at the cost of a fraction of some of the production equipment.”
But it might not be entirely the mines’ responsibility. Since, above all, employees’ lives are at stake, slope monitoring is an occupational health and safety issue, and the level of compliance from mines would depend on the amount of pressure authorities put on operations.