Then & Now: Technology and the changing hazards in mining

Canadian Occupational Safety

How advancements are eliminating some risks and creating new ones

Shane Mercer, Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine

From automation to artificial intelligence, technology has, is, and will continue to both improve safety in the mining industry, while creating new hazards. It is also changing the nature of the work and reducing the overall number of workers in the industry.

“We found about 30,000 actual miners in Canada in 1999 compared with that many in Sudbury alone in 1970,” explains Jamie Kneen, the national program co-lead with Mining Watch Canada, an industry watchdog organization established in 1999. 

Kneen joined the COS Talk podcast to discuss the state of the industry, and he says automation was transforming the industry at the turn of the millennium. “We were already seeing remote control operations of some things, and now they're moving to completely automated machinery.”

Automating in the name of safety

Kneen says by and large automation has made the industry safer by reducing the interactions between humans and heavy machinery. “There are fewer people in harm's way…there are fewer people doing jobs that are dangerous,” says Kneen. But he argues the fewer number of people who are still working in high-risk settings, also face another set of safety challenges that come with working in smaller teams, or alone.

“It has implications for the small number of people who are still in that frontline heavy equipment operating capacity, because there's less of a team,” explains Kneen. He says there are fewer people to make sure the operation runs smoothly and troubleshoot problems when they arise, “if something goes wrong now, there's nobody else around you.” That also limits the level of socializing and team building happening on the job and during lunch breaks.

Overall, Kneen says technological advancements have improved frontline safety, “but they're still risky and there are still injuries and fatalities.”


Read the full article here.