Zero harm objectives have dominated CEOs' priority lists for years, rousing substantial changes to operations in the mining industry. Despite the dramatic decline in fatalities over the last few decades, achieving zero harm in Australian mining is still an ongoing project.
Stealing the spotlight at the recent Future of Mining conference in Perth, Warren Utteridge, Sales Manager for Mining – Electrification at ABB, discussed how we can revolutionise safety performance and sustainability in the industry with cutting-edge innovations. Specifically, Utteridge honed in on the multifaceted challenges presented by power distribution networks, with equipment reliability, sustainability and safety during operation being the main fragilities.
He emphasised the importance of rigorous planning of substation layouts with the correct switchgear application in reducing risks in medium voltage substation environments.
"Until we eliminate injuries entirely, there is room for improvement in terms of risk control associated with switchgear in mines…There are solutions available that can mitigate these risks in the design, including products with passive safety features and the option to overlay active safety measures that create secure operation zones," said Utteridge.
Equipment condition can be a key predictor of power availability and operational reliability, which can determine maintenance schedules. So, even though zero harm is paramount, sustainability and reliability must also be prioritised to form a united front against injury.
"While there is a focus on maximising mine production output, condition monitoring is inextricably linked to safety by determining when and for how long maintenance personnel will engage with switchgear…Remote operation and condition monitoring also contribute to keeping personnel out of harm's way."
With a whopping 130 years of experience in mining electrification under their belt, unsurprisingly, ABB has all the gear to counter these issues. Created with the safety of operators in mind, ABB offers medium voltage switchgear and compact secondary kiosk substation solutions that handle overpressure, specifically in the event of an internal arc fault.
Despite the rarity of such events, the effects can be devastating. Utteridge explained, "The key is to interrupt the fault as soon as possible to maintain safety and limit potential equipment damage or downtime."
In order to reach zero harm and sustainability goals, Utteridge has stressed ABB's dedication to partnering with miners and enabling more reliable mining operations through their electrification and digital solutions.
Though, regrettably, nothing can bring back the individuals lost in mine fatalities, reflecting on how the industry has joined forces as of late to change safety standards, zero harm is within reach. It is of utmost importance that the mistakes made in the past are learned from so the workers in our industry can return home to their families each day.
This article was originally published by the ComponentsONLY team in the November 2023 issue of "@ The Coal Face" magazine.
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