How RFID Systems Make Mining Safe, Secure and More Efficient

Mining is a serious business. Productive mine sites work 24 hours-a-day, are highly scrutinized for safety, and deal with shipments worth millions of dollars. The slightest mistake, accident or inefficiency can have massive repercussions for mine workers and the mining company. That’s why leading mining firms around the world are turning to RFID systems to ensure their operations are safe, secure and more efficient.


If you think safety is expensive, try an accident

At 3:27 pm, on April 5, 2010 at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, Raleigh County, WV, a coal dust explosion occurred at roughly 1000ft underground. The blast resulted in the tragic death of 29 miners, untold pain for their families, a criminal conviction for CEO Don Blankenship, a public relations nightmare and a corporate criminal liabilities settlement worth $209 million.

Safety is stated as the top priority of all mining companies, however keeping track of people around a site can be a personnel-intensive, time-consuming and expensive undertaking that diverts attention from an organization’s primary business activities. However, the use of RFID in mining is creating a safer, cheaper and less personnel-intensive safety system for mine sites around the world.

Well placed RFID readers are able to track the movement of all workers tagged with inexpensive, durable, lightweight tags. The RFID system can be linked with air quality sensors and controlled explosion schedules, meaning any worker in the wrong place can be identified, contacted and removed from danger. Safety equipment can also be tagged, so in the event of an accident miners can be directed to life-saving gas masks, refuge chambers and the best location for escape or rescue.


It’s a gold mine for thieves, literally

The Institute of Security Studies brought out a report on mine theft, which revealed that 73% of thieves in platinum mines and 41% in gold mines were employed by the company they were stealing from. However, companies using RFID systems can ensure that unauthorized personnel are prevented from entering restricted areas and, in the event of a theft, the movement of tagged employees can be retraced to narrow down potential suspects.

External security breaches by thieves or anti-mining extremists can cause injuries, delays or damage to valuable equipment. RFID readers and tags can be used to control entry to a site or prevent equipment from being used without permission. It makes sense that RFID systems are being implemented by the most security conscious mining companies.


RFID systems – and easy decision with big advantages

Productive mines function 24/7, 365 days a year. Any inefficiency causes delays and reduces profits. If a digger digs in the wrong place, a truck takes the wrong route or a miner can’t find the tool he/she is looking for, it causes delays that can cost the mining company thousands of dollars. RFID systems can track the location of all-important equipment to reduce delays caused by human error and even optimize activities for greater profit.

Furthermore, RFID systems can significantly reduce maintenance downtime, potentially saving millions of dollars for mining companies. By accurately tracking the usage patterns of machinery around the site; fluid changes, replacement parts, fueling and general maintenance can be better scheduled to minimize downtime and keep operations running smoothly. Considering the relative affordability of RFID systems, implementing RFID in mining is an easy decision for ambitious companies.