Safety the top priority for big miners

Employee safety, managing capital projects and maximising production effectiveness are the top priorities of today’s mining executives, a study has shown.

These are the results of the third-annual Mining Executive Insights survey released today by industrial software company Ventyx a subsidiary of ABB.

The report examined new trends and shifting attitudes around workforces, capital investments and technology and purports to represent the views of 374 mining companies “with operations in virtually every world market”.

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Ensuring workforce safety came in at the top over the podium for the second time in three years, with 31 per cent of respondents identifying that safety does come first.

One quarter of respondents which included C level executives, vice presidents and directors ranked managing capital projects as their main concern.

So instead of developing new sites, miners are currently favouring the expansion of existing operations.
Adding to this mentality, 21 per cent of executives surveyed gave precedence to maximising production effectiveness.

This involves increasing automation and a greater reliance on information technology, especially as companies are being forced to deliver higher returns to shareholders in the face of depleting reserves and increasing operation costs.

Ventyx’s senior vice president of mining industry solutions, Bas Mutsaers, stated that this research reflects what is going on in the mining sector at present as companies shift their focus towards internal operations and strategies.

“Our research shows the mining industry remains cautious about the strength of global economic recovery. In response, many mining organisations have begun looking inward, especially in regard to the labour market. In doing so, they have shifted their focus from finding qualified workers anywhere, at any cost to ensuring the workforce they currently have is efficient, well-informed and safe,” Mutsaers said.

“At the same time, these companies aren’t seeing a tradeoff between worker safety and profitability. In other words, the same technologies and best practices that improve safety also improve performance and efficiency,” he added.

The report also demonstrates that mining executives closely correlate worker safety and mine productivity. When asked to identify their primary safety initiatives, nearly two-thirds or 64 percent of respondents selected “development of skills, best work practices and situation-based decision making”.

Mutsaers stated that with the introduction of new technologies new opportunities and ways to approach safety concerns are emerging.

“As companies equip their workforces with new technologies – such as mobility solutions that enable faster access to information, regardless of location – they are finding they can change their traditional approach to training and skill development,” he said.

“There is definitely an opportunity for mining organisations to leverage emerging technologies to transform how they educate and empower their workers to reduce safety incidents and improve efficiencies. By delivering on-demand information to the point of work, for example, new mobility solutions can reduce the need to train workers for every possible situation while equipping them to make better on-the-spot decisions.”

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