Mining and mineral extractions has always been a dangerous profession, but recent advances in technologies like equipment condition monitoring solutions and predictive preventative maintenance have made it far safer for workers around the world. However, as two recent bits of news show, more can be done to help those within the profession avoid calamity.
Earlier this month, five coal miners died in India when a one-ton steel box fell on them, The Guardian reported. Two of the workers were in the box being lowered to the bottom of the mine when an iron cable holding them snapped, causing the vehicle to fall on the other three. While modern tools and equipment could have prevented these untimely deaths, the news source reported that equipment reliability is often not a primary concern for coal mining operations in this part of the world. As a result, these incidents are common in Northeast Indian coalfields, although recently-passed legislation that has yet to be implemented will mandate further safety precautions.
The incidents are not isolated to countries like India, however. In November, two miners in the U.S. state of Colorado were killed while underground. Although the official cause of death was not initially known, Fox News reported that a chemical leak was thought to have led to the incident. Mining deaths are much rarer in Colorado versus other parts of the world. Eight people have died in mining-related accidents in the region since 2002, although Fox noted that the last major disaster of this caliber was in 1981.
How equipment condition monitoring helps saves lives
While much separates these two incidents, one thing they both have in common is that a better remote equipment monitoring program could have led to safer working conditions. In the case of the Indian mining deaths, if the mine site had placed a load sensor or strain gauge on the elevator system, then perhaps operators could have seen that the iron rope was about to snap and replaced the faulty part before the workers were killed.
In the case of the Colorado accident, those deaths also might have been prevented by equipment condition monitoring. If a chemical leak was the cause, then perhaps it could have been prevented if the mine's owners were overseeing the affected pipeline with predictive maintenance software. These kinds of solutions can alert personnel to when infrastructure is about to reach its breaking point and replace faulty parts before they lead to disaster.