JumboGuard makes underground mining a safer environment

Mine automation start-up YUMARR Automation has a vision to develop systems that significantly reduce the risks faced by underground miners.

The company has achieved this through its JumboGuard solution, a laser scanner-based assistance system that protects the people working with underground drill rigs.

Building the tunnel of an underground mine is a critical part of the mining operation. The risk of unintended contact with moving booms and entanglement in rotating drill steels remains an industry-wide problem, which far too often results in serious injury or even death.

Safety procedures have been implemented for this reason, but due to human factors, incidents are still occurring.

The industry has been searching for engineering solutions in the past, but earlier efforts to remove the risks were causing false triggers and inadvertent machine shutdowns, as the technology used was too susceptible to noise like spray and dust.

The development of JumboGuard was instigated when mining services group Downer EDI carried out a risk assessment of its mobile underground drills. As a result, Downer contacted YUMARR to engineer a solution that meets their safety requirements for the underground drilling activities.

“We decided to develop a turnkey system which increases the safety of miners and operates under harshest conditions. Our challenge was to design a solution being able to perceive and interpret the complex interactions of humans, the machine and the environment,” YUMARR’s Nicky Guenther told Australian Mining.

“For the solution to be successful it had to work with consistent accuracy in all conditions, build trust with operating staff and blend in seamlessly with existing operations.”

As an additional layer of protection, JumboGuard integrates into existing drill infrastructure and hydraulic control.

Installing anchor bolts and steel mesh to support the tunnel walls requires mine personnel to enter a danger zone and work in direct proximity of the moving parts of the machine. JumboGuard observes the machine surrounding and monitors the movement of persons.

“If anyone enters the danger zone, JumboGuard detects the hazard and automatically stops the boom’s hydraulics, blocking the rotation of drill and movement of the boom,” Guenther said.

“As long as there is someone remaining in the danger zone, JumboGuard actively prevents the reactivation of the machine.”

This is possible due to an intelligent person counting algorithm guarding the danger zone entry and exit. “It is a lifesaving safety feature of JumboGuard,” Guenther added.

Downer offered the testing ground at Kirkland Gold’s Cosmo mine site in the Northern Territory, the drills, the operating crews, as well as mining expertise to facilitate system proving under shift operation conditions.

Guenther said putting the prototype system in the actual working environment was where much of the engineering happened.

“Mud, dust, water spray, multiple operators and high temperatures were a few of the challenges YUMARR needed to teach the software to recognise and overcome,” Guenther said.

Impressed with the performance of JumboGuard, Downer decided to roll out the YUMARR system across its fleet of development drills following the trial.

JumboGuard has since been further developed into an out-of-the-box product that can be installed to any kind of underground drill. This has been an important step enabling the mining industry to retrofit JumboGuard, making underground mines a safer place.

As part of a corporate safety initiative, mining services company Pybar were the first to install the off-the-shelf system on their drill rigs at Oz Minerals’ Carrapateena mine in South Australia and Auctus Minerals’ King Vol Mine in Queensland.

“Underground drill operators and machine offsiders have one of the toughest and most demanding jobs in the industry. The team of YUMARR is very proud, as JumboGuard plays an important role in allowing operating crews to return safely and healthy from the drill face,” Guenther said.

Founded in 2016, YUMARR Automation is a technology & innovation company based in Australia and Germany focussing on the development of safety and automation systems for the mining industry.