Tag Archives: Digging

An ancillary component to all mining operations, perhaps more so than any industry, is mining safety. Everything mine workers and their foremen do throughout their day-to-day itinerary should include extra attention to adhering to mining safety standards and improving on them wherever possible.

Though the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mining Safety and Health Administration reported workplace fatalities have plummeted over the last 40 years from around 250 annually in the late 1970s to under 50 in 2014, securing employees against risk protects them as much as the business itself. After all, time spent recovering from an injury chips away at a mining company’s productivity. In the end, it’s in everyone’s best interests to increase minig safety and prevent harm for both medical and financial reasons.

Taking extra precautions need not complicate the task at hand – safety and efficiency aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, foremen and managers seeking to optimize processes and improve the quality of their risk prevention can do so by simply focusing on improving efficiency in target areas.

As the first step to the mining process, fragmentation can have an incredible impact on mine development and even auxiliary operations. Proper fragmentation can align ore extraction with daily objectives, which subsequently allows workers and engineers to utilize mining and transport equipment at peak efficiency. It’s important every load sent to the surface doesn’t fall short of its predicted capacity, otherwise mine operators unnecessarily expend fuel, pay staff to work longer hours, and wear down machinery, all for a less-than-anticipated return. As such, implementing an intelligent, data-driven approach to fragmentation that consistently provides adequate resources helps everything after and beyond flow smoothly.

Mining Safety
A clean, controlled explosion can help miners perform their duties with greater efficiency.

With all that in mind, we are talking about explosions, however controlled they may be. Luckily, some of the greatest mining safety tools also promote efficiency. According to a study by the Department of Mining Engineering at the Federal University of Technology in Akure, Nigeria, to protect workers from inefficiency, as well as safety hazards like fly rocks, miners should pay closer attention to rockmass and blast parameters. Just as a well-executed fragmentation sets up workers for ideal extraction conditions, a comprehensive assessment of rock density and placement of explosives enhance the effectiveness of the fragmentation. Additionally, competent adjustments to blast hole diameters and borehole depth reduces overburden and minimizes extraneous equipment use, which again, cuts down on energy, wear-and-tear, and time spent on-site that detracts from extraction.

When an occupation includes handling high explosives as part of the job description, it can feel as though a piece of everyday operations will be left to chance. However, mining professionals know that’s far from the truth. Businesses can takes steps toward calibrating their fragmentation, fine tuning it until it maximizes production and mining safety.

“Without ample attention paid to communication services, miners and engineers can lose productivity and decrease mining safety.”

Signal strength
Communication in the mining industry remains a multifaceted issue with a variety of considerations. Mining is one of the rare instances of workers performing 12 to 14 hour shifts over many consecutive days. In this business model, foremen and managers get the most out of their teams, which keeps production moving and on quota. That said, without ample attention paid to communication services, miners and engineers can lose productivity and the resources they need to stay safe.

Network communication provider Globecomm broke down mining communication into two basic hemispheres: reachback and mine site communication. Reachback communication connects the quarry with the outside world via telecommunications and Internet, typically used as a means for connecting “boots on the ground” with headquarters. However, as the Internet continues to grow in popularity as a source of entertainment, a reliable Wi-Fi or wired connection for workers to use during downtime keeps spirits high after intense physical labor. Moreover, during the workday, reliable web services and telecommunications also allow miners to perform research, supplying them with the information they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently.

To that same end, high-quality communication between workers can not only keep continuous processes in full swing, but at a blast site that uses explosives and industrial equipment to rend solid rock, it can also save lives in an industry. Workers should always have a reliable channel of communication to prevent accidental injuries. Additionally, as mining technology continues to advance, companies will also begin integrating more data-powered machinery, which will also require a strong network connection on which to transmit information.

Foremen, miners and engineers understand mining safety is not an option in their line of work, but a necessity, one that doesn’t have to be leveraged against filling orders on time and at allocation. By employing mining safety measures as a means to highlight areas of operation in need of an efficiency boost, these workers can have the best of both worlds.

With projects across the globe, the variety of clients our company works with has given me the chance to learn about specific processes utilized in certain industries that I would never have otherwise known about. Recently, USCCG completed a pipeline integrity project for an Oil and Gas company in North America. I reached out to Ben Harper, Project Manager with USCCG, to get the inside scoop on his team’s strategy, process implementation, and end results.

Understanding Pipeline Integrity

Pipeline Integrity encompasses two areas: In-line Inspection and Digging. In-line inspection is the process of investigating the integrity of pipelines through internal inspection via a highly specialized and intelligent pipe diagnostic tool which is pushed through the pipeline being investigated from point A to point B. The data received from this process is analyzed and then utilized in preparing a prioritized maintenance schedule. It’s sometimes called Pigging by employees, as earlier generations of the tools used were said to sound like a screaming pig as they were sent through the pipes. Due to the level of technology and proprietary knowledge of the technology in the tools they are owned by outside vendors. These vendors are selected based on the pipes design and their tools’ specs, dimensions, and capabilities. The Digging involves unearthing the pipes and either replacing or cutting-out pieces based on the results of the inspection.

Our Client’s Situation

The client team was made up of engineers, who were very particular about documenting and following the processes and procedures outlined in their department’s manuals. Since integrity projects are typically uncomplicated and relatively inexpensive, these projects have become the training ground for new and inexperienced project engineers. Unfortunately, they relied heavily on antiquated, and in some cases non-existent/non-applicable, processes and procedures. Thus, a major issue was that new employees were too often learning from their mistakes and depending too much on the support of more experienced employees. Furthermore, each individual was developing tools and reports to plan and execute, and of course, report their version of the process, creating a vast litany of unique reports capturing data relevant only to the user.

Our Team’s Objective

Our engagement was to review and improve our client’s handling of Pipeline Integrity projects (focus on In-line Inspections), Storage and Transmission buildings (STO), and Turn-key projects, while enhancing and developing a standard tool kit for new engineers to rely on. Upon our analysis of the gaps in their processes and procedures, it was clear that most of the issues were related to Integrity. While the Integrity projects represented a smaller portion of their budget, it represented a significant percentage by units of work. As the larger STO and Turn-key projects were generally handled following a larger divisions process and procedures, we encouraged an approach which would comprehensively encompass Integrity projects, all the while applying lessons learned in the Integrity processes to the larger projects.

Developing the Process

We conducted several “brown paper” meetings which included representatives from all of the support departments under the Engineering Construction umbrella – such as pipeline design, pipeline engineering, planning, etc. From these meetings we developed the ideal state process flow models which outlined all the steps and responsibilities in the project.

Brown Paper room view

During our analysis phase, we also identified some tools and information gaps that our team worked on throughout the ideal state development. From all of the data that was captured during and after past integrity projects, they never attempted to capture the operational information that would simplify and improve future projects, as the pipelines are basically the same when they return two years later.

Creating the Tools

From all of the available information, we created a high-level estimating tool that would enable any employee, new or experienced, to generate a high-level estimate of the project. This was important as they relied heavily on the knowledge of one experienced individual to create the integrity budget each year. This tool enables the managers to build their own high-level estimates if changes to the project scope occur.

We also built another simple, but helpful tool: a standard estimating template in excel. It begin as a quick excel report and over 10 weeks our team developed the “Project Workbook” which included the budget template, along with project tracking aligned with their SAP, burn-rate/project outlook, and a summary tab with two documents that were auto-filled to submit to accounting. This eliminated the need for employees to estimate information that was not available or leave out relevant information, as they had done in the past because previous budgets were all unique or ad-hoc remodels of old projects.

The Results

Throughout the development of the processes and procedures for In-line Inspections, Digging, and Turn-key, we also addressed and closed 14 gaps such as the examples above. We standardized frequently used documents and assisted in the alignment of their documents to other departments and necessary requirements. This project is considered a cost avoidance project, as it is extremely hard to put a financial value to the installation of these benefits. At the end, we were able to provide our client with tangible benefits to the completed work, outlined below.

Tangible Benefits Oil and Gas

Pennies Make Dimes and Dimes Make Dollars

This project emphasizes the value of having a strong and well-developed process model for smaller high volume projects that are executed on a routine basis. The small dollar value associated with Integrity processes accumulates over the number of times it is executed on a yearly basis by in-experienced engineers. While this enhancement may appear small, it is these small improvements in a large company that provide competitive advantages.