BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) is using virtual reality (VR) to teach operators about the hazards and risks of underground mining before stepping foot on the Broadmeadow mine in Queensland.
The technology immerses the operator in a simulated variety of underground scenarios, including the longwall environment at the Broadmeadow mine.
This simulation provides users the option to be a shearer or chock operator, and trains operators on what to do if they are ever confronted with these situations.
“This simulation is the best I’ve seen with everything looking exactly as it does underground (apart from the colours),” BMA longwall operator David Thorpe said.
“As part of this package, we wanted to build in a number of different scenarios which can all occur when working on the longwall.
“For example, we have a roof cavity scenario where the coal falls through the flippers from above. While this isn’t something that happens regularly, it can occur, so if we can prepare our people to manage the situation in a safe environment, they will be better prepared to deal with it.”
The VR technology also allows users to move into different locations, including hazardous zones where workers would normally not have access to.
This training package is a result of an 18-month development, which involved Coal Services and a number of experienced operators.
BMA manager for special projects at Broadmeadow mine Nathan Parsons, who led the program, believes working closely with operators was a key part of the technology’s early success at Broadmeadow.
“They’re the ones who work in that environment every day, so their feedback and input was critical,” Parsons said.
“Ultimately, we want a fully functional underground environment in which we can train all operators in before they actually step foot underground.”