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‘Mine' Your Risks

‘Mine' Your Risks

Internal Theft
According to Bytes Systems Integration, up to 30 percent of the gold mined in South Africa is stolen before it can generate profit for the mining houses. In order to prevent theft, most attention is focused on access control and intrusion detection for storage, processing areas and areas where heavy machinery is present. Access control with biometrics, turnstiles, metal detectors, background checks, and time and attendance management are used to minimize theft.

Tracking and locating
Harsh environmental conditions also pose challenges to mining security deployment. “Many mining processes involve substances such as gases, dusts, fibers and even aggressive corrosive substances, which can constitute a hazardous environment,” said Simon Fennen, Advanced Technologies Business Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Motorola Solutions. The use of electronic equipment in such areas should be considered and controlled by intrinsically safe approval standards for the equipment. “It is not enough to just ruggedize the hardware, the systems must adapt to constantly changing environmental conditions, like dust clouds that impact wireless data transmission.”

Besides the harsh environment at mine sites, the high noise level of operations and the lack of availability of real-time positional and environmental information could potentially cripple the ability of miners to react promptly in case of a disaster. “Accidents could be averted or damage recovery [could be] very fast if the miners are equipped with proper communications devices,” Fennen added. “In the case of disaster recovery, the real time location of the miner is critical for prompt and effective rescue operation. It is becoming important in mining to use wi-fi to connect, communicate and control remote applications, such as real-time mine site surveillance or remote access to critical telemetry data as a means of communications. This is especially true for underground mines as wired communications are limited in tunnels."

When mitigating disasters, especially underground, GPS/RFID capabilities that are built-in into the devices worn by miners come in handy. More mobile devices are becoming miners' electronic security tags, much in the same way that the mobile phone will become your wallet. “A whole range of additional safety applications such as heart rate monitors, and temperature and explosive environment measurements, are also now coming to the scene, providing safety operators with enhanced situational awareness in those critical moments that matter,” Fennen said.

Aside from the importance of the location of personnel when it comes to health and safety, knowing where they are in either regular operational work or extra-ordinary events is also vital. According to Gallagher, a virtual radius around a coal mine's drag line operation could be created and anybody with a location aware device would be verified to ensure competency and authorization. Any unauthorized personnel would raise an alarm in the system for the mine to follow its relevant procedures to prevent unsafe practices and manage business risk.

Mitigating False Alarms
Compared to commercial-use security systems, mining security systems must work in harsh environments. Dust, humidity, fog, low light, extreme temperature and weather conditions are issues at mines. Such environmental factors have a tremendous influence over the performance of video analytics and could cause false alarms.

“The best way to minimize the impact of false alarms is to begin with a thoughtful approach in designing the sensor/detector system,” Wood said. “The design should not be based on selecting a sensor/detector and then identifying where it should be installed. Instead, a value-engineering approach should be used to ensure the performance of intrusion and other types of alarm systems. Begin by asking simple questions: What are we trying to detect? Where are we trying to detect the condition? Who should be informed in the event of an alarm? Is the sensor even needed at all, or can we modify a process or construct a barrier that would provide for safer and more secure conditions?”

More Integration
Security software integrated with enterprise resource planning software is a trend. Choosing the right technology is important for the provision of low risk, high operational flexibility, mission critical reliability and future-ready IP applications. The right technology platform selection needs to consider how the workforce operates and maximizes efficient workflows, as a comprehensively integrated platform not only automates mining processes, reduces the amount of labor required but also maintains the same level of security.

Surveillance platforms combining video, audio, thermal images with access control are is gradually being deployed from the perimeter to the critical area. “Increasingly, video produced by cameras installed to monitor operations or safety processes is being shared with security personnel in order to facilitate intrusion/incident assessment and response, access control, and for investigative purposes,” Wood said.

“Card-based and biometric access controls, used at a site or for a specific area, may have an anti-pass back feature that can be used to account for personnel during an evacuation or shelterin- place condition,” Wood added. Access control systems linked to human resource software sharing staff data, such as drug, alcohol and blood testing requirements are more common as well. More video management software providers are seeing increasing integration opportunities to other systems such as anti-intrusion, access control and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), according to Andrea Sorri, Director of Government, City Surveillance and Critical Infrastructure Development, Axis Communications. “Remote technical assistance to maintain and repair production machinery is one of the applications we will see more in the future.”

“We see a future where a system that tracks people, vehicles, equipment and where it can raise alarms or restrict access to people trying to enter areas of the mine if they don't have the appropriate equipment — such as cap lamp, communication equipment or anything else that can be identified at a portal or access point and associated with that particular cardholder that ensures they can do their job efficiently and safely,” said Evan Morgans, Strategic Program Manager at Gallagher.

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