FLIR imaging cameras secure diamond mines in Namibia day and night

FLIR imaging cameras secure diamond mines in Namibia day and night

Oranjemund, situated in the far south western corner of Namibia, means mouth of the Orange River. Accessing the town is impossible without a special permit issued by the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy. In Oranjemund, diamond theft is a serious concern as it is one of the richest diamond fields in the world. A big sign saying, “Diamond theft hurts us all – Don't do it”, is one of the first things visitors see when they arrive at the local airport.

Stealings planed by criminal groups
Diamonds are very small and easy to conceal. Therefore making sure that as little as possible diamonds are being stolen is of the utmost concern to all mining companies. Even to the company which holds multiple mining licenses in Oranjemund, diamond theft is a serious issue.

While the mines are very rich and produce stones of the highest quality, most of the product is gem stone quality, used for jewellery, with only a very small percentage of industrial stones. Workers working on the bedrock, the bottom layer where the diamonds are situated, regularly spot diamonds with the naked eye. If a worker picks up a diamond and hands it over, the experts will determine the value of the stone and 70% of its value is given to the honest finder. This way we try to discourage theft. Nowhere else can a worker gain this amount of money for a precious stone.
The problem is that workers are sometimes under pressure from criminal organizations to steal diamonds. Still numerous people are trying to steal the diamonds. Though at the “black market” they will only receive a small amount of the stone's value. Although strict security measurements are in place, they still try to steal using different methods.

Strict security deployment
The bedrock area is a critical area to guard when it comes to fighting against diamond thieves. Movable wireless camera systems called “spider cameras” on the bedrock mining sites are introduced for monitoring workers closely. These are small, movable CCTV cameras installed on the bedrock, close to the workers.

Thermal imaging cams detect stealing in the dark
For workers with stealing plans, they become aware of being monitored. Therefore the thieves hide stones in a remote area of the bedrock area. During the night, the thieves come back to collect the diamonds. On active bedrock sites, FLIR Systems SR-100 thermal imaging camera has been deployed in real cases. There is not supposed to be any activity on the bedrock sites during night time. If anyone tries to access at night to pick up diamonds, the suspects can be seen immediately on monitors. The pan/tilt function can effectively track the target to help security patrol on the way arresting the suspects.

Customized housing enhance image quality against harsh conditions
The cameras operating on the bedrock areas are operating in extremely harsh conditions. Close to the sea, they are susceptible to salt spray, and exposed to strong winds. To customize the solution, , FLIR have constructed a “Stainless Steel 316” housing although the cameras are extremely well protected. The FLIR Systems SR-100 cameras are installed in the housing together with a CCTV camera which overlooks the bedrock during daytime. The housing containing the two cameras is installed on a pan/tilt which increases situational awareness and allows following people when necessary. ”

Guarding all essential areas
Entrance, exit and no-mans land secured

The essential areas for security include not just the bedrocks, but also the entrance and exit to the mining areas. They are all secured and monitored with thermal imaging cameras. However, between the mining area and the town exists a “no-mans land”.
In a real case, security people monitor the entrance and exit to the Mining Area and the “no-mans land” with other equipment in place, and continuously with a FLIR Systems PTZ-35x140 MS thermal imaging camera. During daytime, the daylight camera installed in the PTZ-35x140 MS operates; when it gets dark, it is switched to the thermal cam. The PTZ-35x140 MS, perfect for security needs, can zoom in and catch closer look at suspect's activities.

Tricky stealing attempts stopped
One of the ways that people try to get diamonds out of the mining area is by shooting crossbow arrows over the “no-mans land”! The arrows are hollow and the inside is filled with diamonds. According to local security professionals, an accomplice picks up the arrows on the other side. Thanks to the PTZ-35x140 MS, we can now monitor, in total darkness and also in foggy conditions, what is happening alongside the fence. If we see people approaching and suspect illegal activity we send out a patrol. Since the PTZ-35x140 MS is mounted on a robust pan/ tilt mechanism, we can overlook an entire area and if necessary follow a suspect person so that he can not get away.”

Excellent value created

To the local mining companies, they reckon they get excellent value for their money paid. The FLIR Systems cameras contain a Vanadium Oxide detector, producing excellent images, revealing the smallest of details. These images are produced with a frame rate of 9 Hz, saving the clients any export license to install them in Namibia. However, they save more. Compared to other cameras that have been installed, which contain a BST detector. In order to operate well, they needed an internal mechanical chopper that calibrates the image. This chopper was very susceptible to breakdowns. With FLIR Systems material, the clients are no longer bothered by these problems. They get excellent value for the money paid.

With real deployment in Oranjemund , thermal imaging cameras have proven their worth here. Advantages of thermal imaging compared to traditional fences and cameras are clear. Given these success stories in local mining areas, more projects are being considered.

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