De Beers Adds Shine To Mining Ops With Geofencing

Photo credit: iStockphoto/luchschen

Mines are dangerous places. Employee health and safety is a critical concern in such environments. Still, the risks remain high as mining sees workers in hazardous environments and working with heavy machinery nearby.

De Beers, famous for its diamond, is using IoT for geofencing and maintaining safe working distances for the mining crew and the heavy machinery involved in marine diamond mining.

The new solution, based on a co-development initiative with Orange Business Services, was successfully piloted on board the MV Mafuta, the world’s largest offshore diamond mining vessel owned and operated by Debmarine Namibia. The ship operates up to 150 km off the coast of Namibia in southern Africa.

The Orange IoT solution forms part of De Beers’ ‘zero harm’ initiative. It uses IoT technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy locators and wearable sensors, to precisely locate the crew. Onboard antennas and an Orange software engine help to triangulate the whereabouts of the crew.

“The initial engagement consultation and joint workshop with the team from Orange Business Services was very productive and quickly identified the potential for an IoT solution to ensure the wellbeing of personnel onboard the vessels. We quickly moved to a pilot phase, which has now confirmed the potential of this innovative approach that we could embed within our existing safety processes and procedures,” said Gerhardus Theron, vessel manager of the MV Mafuta in a press release.

During the pilot, Orange Business Services used Mafuta’s AutoCAD files and an onsite survey to map antenna locations and set up geofencing. Ten crew members with wrist sensors took part. When they breach the geofenced area, the ship’s bridge is alerted immediately.

De Beers Group Technology SA, an R&D arm of the De Beers Group, is going further. It is now exploring additional applications, such as a breach alert function to link the sensors directly to the mining machinery via a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) control system and PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers). Such a function creates a failsafe cut-off when there is a breach.

“The geofencing pilot has already proved successful in one of the most challenging heavy industrial environments — a floating diamond mine at sea, with prolonged exposure to strong vibration and corrosive salt water. The next phase of its development will aim to refine the interface and data collection capabilities and include testing a trigger function to deactivate machinery in the event of a breach of the geofence by a crew member,” said Keith Matthews, country manager for South Africa at Orange Business Services.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/luchschen