In a first for the mining industry, Booyco Electronics has developed unique on-board metering technology that allows mining companies to monitor a variety of operational parameters relating to their underground machinery.
Jaco du Plessis, operations manager at Booyco Electronics, says this technology was originally developed in 2012 at the request of a platinum mine in Mpumalanga, but has since become commercially available to the industry at large. Parameters include monitoring the running hours of vehicles, the percussion running hours of drill rigs and roof bolter machines as well as operator fatigue, driver identity and machine abuse.
“In the current economic climate, mining companies need to know exactly how many hours their underground machinery is running and how long it stands idle during a given shift,” explains Du Plessis. “Until now, there was no way to access this information, but the introduction of the on-board monitor with this capability makes it possible to access the detailed, accurate and real-time data necessary for optimum underground mine management.”
He says the option to monitor the percussion hours of a piece of machinery provides management with detailed information on the actual production hours of the machine when the drill was running and the amount of vibration to which the operator was subjected.
All operators become fatigued when operating heavy machinery in an underground environment and it is recommended that operators switch off their machines and rest for a period of 15 minutes every two to three hours. Booyco Electronics’ on-board monitoring technology can be configured to automatically shut down these machines at the prescribed interval and only allow them to be restarted once the rest period is over.
Thanks to an RTC (Real Time Clock) on the unit, these break intervals can be accurately configured to end users requirements. To notify the operator of the approaching break time an audible alarm can be configured to warn that the machine is about to shut down. This can be configured to give repetitive pulsing alarms for a few minutes before or a long alarm a few seconds before the machine switches off. If the machine comes to a halt in a travel way or any other dangerous position, an override facility allows the operator to restart it for a few minutes (this is adjustable) in order to move it safely out of the way before it shuts down again, while recording the over-ride.
The new technology also makes a contribution to underground safety by taking the control and licensing of underground machine operators to a new level. The proper control of these operators is managed by a driver ID logging facility that confirms if the operator has a valid licence to operate a particular piece of machinery. The only way an operator can access and operate a machine is if the scanning device on the machine authenticates him by validating his fingerprint and clock card. If the operator does not meet the necessary requirements the machine will not start up.
Abuse of underground machinery is an issue that frequently adds to underground operational costs.
“It comes down to how roughly the operator accelerates and brakes the vehicle,” explains Du Plessis. “If the driver accelerates or brakes too forcefully, the vehicle is exposed to high G-forces that could damage its mechanical components. The vehicle abuse monitor capability within the on-board meter keeps track of all G-forces experienced by the vehicle during a shift and should these forces exceed pre-defined set points, the system will record this and provide information on precisely when this level of G-force was experienced.”
One way to access detailed reports of the various data captured by the on-board meter is via a fixed reader connected to a fibre optic backbone that is linked to a server on the surface. For example, every time a vehicle fills up at the diesel bay, a fixed reader at this station could retrieve the data automatically and dump it onto the mine’s IT network. Alternatively, a portable tablet or PC fitted with a reader can be used to download the information remotely by standing next to the machine.
“Booyco Electronics’ philosophy is to supply electronic safety solutions that optimise mine safety,” Du Plessis concludes. “We take a focused approach to providing innovative mine safety related products that will both add value and increase productivity within the southern African mining sector. The on-board meter is the latest innovation to come out of this commitment.”
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