Interview with Dirk Claessens

Written by: Fleming. Team

1) Years ago, it was believed that safety came at the expense of productivity. Nowadays, many believe that high safety standards have a positive impact on productivity. Could you explain to us how?

Safety unquestionably has a positive impact on productivity. There are two main reasons why:a) Incidents negatively impact on operations. Every time there's an incident,the affected area stops working, the back office is forced to focus on the incident and postpone other tasks, investigations have to take place, reporting must be done… The time and money that's lost in the process goes way beyond the cost of more robust safety systems and procedures;b) A corporate culture focused on avoiding incidents is, for the reasons explained, the only way to achieve optimal productivity, and if you want to obtain improvements in productivity, improving safety standards should be one of your first stops.

2) How will new technologies help to achieve the 0:50:5 HSE goal in the mining industry (0 fatalities and a 50% reduction in injuries in the next 5 years)

?Technology is the main driving force for reaching the 0:50:5 HSE target because it's very underutilized in mining; most companies make efforts to achieve a safety-driven corporate culture, which is also essential, but not sufficient. Some of the technologies to implement include:a) Big Data analytics: by proper large-scale data collection and analysis, we can be proactive with regards to potential safety threats and predicting incidents;b) Mobile devices, as explained in question 4);c) The use of drones, either flying or 4-wheeled, has immense potential, especially for dangerous underground explorations;d) More sophisticated equipment monitoring;e) Groundbreaking safety trainings such as simulators in game format that take advantage of the new trends in gamification;f) Strong social media analytics to check out the employees’ feedback for a more qualitative kind of analysis.

3) Which are the processes in mining where efficiency can be boosted?

Mostly in every aspect where technology is involved, but more notably in three areas:a) A more sophisticated and widespread use of analytics, especially big data, is a promising prospect. This will allow us to link productivity outcomes with the factors that originated them, providing effective decisional support to strategy and planning;b) Another area is planning. In complex mining projects, there are 20-25 thousand tasks to be scheduled, and a mining plan as such can take up to 5-6 weeks to be sorted out. Thanks to our Mine on Demand technology, developed in cooperation with Mine RP, the task sequence is done automatically and even the most complicated mining plan takes only a few minutes.Additionally, the fluctuations in commodity prices are constantly monitored and the plan is adjusted accordingly to always guarantee the highest ROI.

4) Several apps for condition monitoring are now on the market thanks to wearable technology, especially for fitness. Is there something similar to monitor a miner's condition?

Yes, there is. Our Guardian Angel app, developed in alliance with Apple, interfaces with sensors on the helmet, boots and other wearables, and monitors the miner's body temperature and position, the surrounding environmental conditions and a lot of other detailed information in real time. If at least one of the parameters is out of the safety range, a message is sent to the miner, and if a reply doesn't come within 30 seconds, the operations are automatically alerted. So the reason why it's superior to existing systems is mainly its integration with existing devices and the automated communication.The user interface has been created by Apple, which is the sector leader, and we tested iPhones and iPads in demanding conditions such as the Amazonian forest and the hood of a mining truck exposed to the sun for several days; they passed every test with flying colors, making them surprisingly suitable devices for mining applications.