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Next generation training tool: virtual reality

The mining industry is a dangerous profession comprised of hazardous working conditions, lethal gases and equipment the size of Transformers. The need f...

Admin
|Jul 27|magazine12 min read

The mining industry is a dangerous profession comprised of hazardous working conditions, lethal gases and equipment the size of Transformers. The need for mine safety and training is immense and companies are actively striving to enhance practices and techniques, but what about situations too dangerous to recreate in real life, such as an underground fire or gas explosion?

In an effort to improve mine safety and training, companies are beginning to adopt cutting-edge technology to better train employees on what to do if they are ever confronted with one of these situations. Mines Rescue is one such company.

The NSW-based organization, which is a business unit of Coal Services, has launched a virtual reality training center that will transform the way miners are taught about safety.

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“It puts them in situations that can’t be replicated in the real world,” said Steve Tonegato, State Operations Manager of Mines Rescue.

“You can’t light fires underground, you can’t have smoke coming at you, and you can’t put people in high pressure situations in real mines where they have to make decisions, but you can do that here.”

According to Australian Mining, the training center is equipped with a 360 degree view of screens, resembling the likes of an IMAX theater, to make the experience more realistic for users. Unlike other training centers, the company has built a fully operating mine in virtual reality.

“Mixed reality is something that is very unique. People see a lot of virtual reality, especially in gaming which has sensational graphics, but this is a place where not only does everything look real but you can also interact,” said Tonegato.

“Everything you see in an underground mine, from dolly cars to conveyors to longwalls is replicated here,” Tonegato adds.

Bells and whistles

The virtual reality training center by Mines Rescue offers a slew of advantages other training courses and practices don’t, or can’t. Features like viewing the mine from different angles assists in the holistic training experience, which allows participants to better understand their working environment and what could go wrong.

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“We can go through and show people it all works. How the bolts are put in and the order they’re put in and why they’re put in. We can talk about elements of strata management, we can talk about vent tubes and ventilation, all that sort of stuff,” said Matthew Farrelly, Mines Rescue virtual reality Technical Manager.

In addition, the virtual reality training can be customized to incorporate a variety of mining assets and equipment, including dangers.

“What this allows us to do is move these assets to wherever we want within the virtual reality world and set them on fire, create accidents, create smoke, to give training participants a full emergency experience,” Tonegato said.

The virtual reality center by Mines Rescue has six classrooms and a small underground mine course comprised of a set of tunnels, a small longwall and a conveyor.

“Our facilities at Mines Rescue throughout the state are absolutely world-class,” Tonegato said.

“Not only do we have a range of terrific practical areas for a range of training, from working at heights to manual handling to confined spaces – we are also able to utilize virtual reality in many and varied platforms.”

(Source: Australian Mining)

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