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Mining industry looks to improve health and safety through virtual reality

Historically known for its brute workforce and dangerous working conditions, the mining industry is coming full circle as it currently seeks to integrat...

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|Jul 27|magazine8 min read

Historically known for its brute workforce and dangerous working conditions, the mining industry is coming full circle as it currently seeks to integrate cutting-edge technologies in order to improve overall mine health and safety. The industry’s training tool of choice: virtual reality.

According to Mining Global, the futuristic technology will massively improve training procedures as it will plug employees into situations that can’t be recreated in real life, such as an underground fire or gas explosion, and train them how to properly respond.

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Mines Rescue, a business unit of Coal Services, has launched its own virtual reality training center in New South Wales, equipped with a 360 degree view of screens, showcasing accurate and realistic mine setting underground.

“It puts them in situations that can’t be replicated in the real world,” said Steve Tonegato, State Operations Manager of Mines Rescue.

“You can’t light fires underground, you can’t have smoke coming at you, and you can’t put people in high pressure situations in real mines where they have to make decisions, but you can do that here.”

More than just a simulator, Mines Rescue has built a fully operating mine with over 50 kilometers of virtual roadway, covering all regular mining methods based off real terrain data.

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“Mixed reality is something that is very unique. People see a lot of virtual reality, especially in gaming which has sensational graphics, but this is a place where not only does everything look real but you can also interact,” said Tonegato.

The virtual reality training can be customized to incorporate a variety of mining assets and equipment, including dangers to better improve response times.

“What this allows us to do is move these assets to wherever we want within the virtual reality world and set them on fire, create accidents, create smoke, to give training participants a full emergency experience,” Tonegato said.

“Everything you see in an underground mine, from dolly cars to conveyors to longwalls is replicated here.

Virtual reality has the potential to significantly improve training and recourse action in mining, cultivating new generations of miners.

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