Underground can be a dangerous place, especially for people new to the job, so we take our safety training very seriously. And our South Africa Energy Coal safety team is leading the way with an ingenious – and safe – solution. We built a big, convincing ‘fake’ underground mine at Khutala, designed to mirror the geotechnical and ventilation conditions of real coal mines, including those where accidents have happened in the past.
Trainees start in a lamp room and waiting area exactly like the real thing, and in the ‘mine’ the ventilation system can be varied to create smoke and other hazards, and a sound system pumps out the sounds of a realistic underground emergency. We can even simulate a methane explosion where people can practice escaping to a properly equipped rescue bay. It’s just like the real thing, except our trainees can experience what it’s like to be in an underground emergency in safet. We’ve also included training simulators for equipment, including the continuous miner, shuttle car and load haul dumper. These simulators act like the real thing too, providing the sounds, feelings and handling exactly like the machines would, especially when mistakes are made. Our miners get to experience challenging situations in a completely safe and risk-free environment, making them a highly effective way to train operators.
It’s a big effort to create a mock mine, but the investment is worth it, because it helps to ensure our people go home safe at the end of their day’s work.