Fence monitoring from the cloud

Issue 5 2021 Editor's Choice, Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection, Mining (Industry)

Security at the Assmang Black Rock Mine in the Northern Cape has been dramatically improved since moving from a radio-based alarm monitoring and communications system to Devtron’s cloud-based, Circuit Master solution.

Assmang mines manganese ore at the Black Rock mining complex situated in the Kalahari Manganese Field, which contains around 80% of the world’s known high-grade manganese resource. In total, 3,6 million tons of iron and manganese ore per year are excavated and produced across Black Rock’s three separate mine shafts.

High security is critical to its operations, given its location across multiples sites and range of activities, from earth-moving, to transportation of ore, on- and off-loading, collection of mining equipment and other on-site support functions.

Raynier Vorster, senior technician at Thorburn Security Solutions, which supplies security services at the mine, explains that over the past five years the mine has been expanding its exploration, resulting in its overall area of operations increasing exponentially.

Identifying the security system weaknesses

“During 2019, the increased activity resulted in a number of security challenges and it became clear that there were various shortfalls in the existing security system that would need to be addressed to beef up security,” he says.

A key issue related to the mine’s radio-based alarm signalling system, which made for erratic communications and had extremely limited capacity for user notifications and control room assistance in the event of an alarm.

“The unstable nature of radio communications severely undermined our ability to respond to security breaches” explains Vorster. “It sometimes took up to 15 minutes before signals reached the control room and when they did, the radio interference often made them unclear.”

The fence itself also needed upgrading and the old energisers had limited capacity and functions. There were no zone-specific alarm notifications and the notification panel could provide no assistance on possible actions that could be taken.

Implementing a reliable solution

Nemtek, which supplied the mine’s 60 km fence, was called in to assist in finding a solution. The company has a long-standing strategic partnership with Devtron, whose Circuit Master solution has significantly enhanced its offering to its customers and the company’s MD, Matthew Krinsky, was brought in to assist in determining the mine’s requirements from the outset. Together with the Black Rock Mine operations team, the four parties created a detailed list and understanding of the mine’s service and system requirements.

The decision was made to move from a radio-controlled network and communications system to Devtron’s Circuit Master solution, a cloud-based digital, livestreaming electric fence monitoring system that can be simultaneously viewed by multiple sites.

At the heart of the Circuit Master system is the highly sophisticated and powerful 3G Devnet24 modem. Based on the same robust technology as used in the banking industry, it collects all the perimeter and equipment data and makes it possible for anyone connected to use the system to monitor and optimise the effectiveness of the fence on a round-the-clock basis.

Playing an integral part of the solution, the old energisers were replaced with Nemtek’s latest robust D-28 energisers, which integrate with the Circuit Master software and can control and monitor two zones simultaneously.

Benefits of the Devtron solution

The new system, which was installed within three months, has greatly enhanced Thorburn Security Solutions’ ability to provide effective security at the mine, says Vorster. Moving from a radio network to GSM means that when one mobile network is down, the mine can immediately switch to another. Communications are clear and can be text-based, which eliminates errors that typically arise from radio interference especially given the sheer size of the mine and its multiple operations.

“Perhaps the most important benefit is that any alarm signals from 145 alarms, situated right around the mine, are now received in the control room within seconds, as opposed to minutes,” says Vorster.

“We can pinpoint the exact unit and zone affected, so a technician can be rapidly dispatched to fix it. Any assistance he requires is available from the control room, a laptop or cellphone – again, dramatically improving the speed at which problems can be fixed.”

Power was furthermore sourced by a solar unit next to each energiser, which saved costs and reduced the mine’s dependency on electricity. By attaching the sensors to the solar panels, they are also able to be monitored by the Devtron system.

Monitoring the mine’s three main alarm types – zone, kiosk door and solar panel alarms, the system thus effectively covers all main sources of potential security breaches.

Being cloud-based, information is backed up and secure, so that if a problem were to occur with the control room’s computer, the system would be back up and running on the same day without any information loss. “This means we have accurate information at our fingertips at all times, so we are able to generate reports with all the necessary data if ever the mine requests it.”

Outstanding support from Devtron

Vorster says that Devtron has become an integral partner in Thorburn’s security operations at the mine. “Since day one, we’ve had outstanding service. Matthew Krinsky stayed in constant contact with me during the design of the system so that the final design reflected exactly what we needed.

“They also offer reliable 24×7 support. If I call them with a problem, even if it’s in the middle of the night, a Devtron support agent gets up to sort it out for me. Since it was installed 18 months ago, the system has remained stable and can operate in all weather conditions. I can highly recommend the system to large scale sites,” concludes Vorster.

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