Mines need to spend money on security just like all businesses do, and the economies of scale that apply to mining operations make some of the most advanced and expensive technologies somewhat more attainable than in many other applications. The following are some of the latest and greatest technologies and solutions being deployed in mining environments, according to Vanessa Tyne, senior key account manager and team lead at Axis Communications.
Drones, radar and cameras
Drones aren’t a cheap alternative as they are rather costly when the flight time is considered in the context of all that the drone needs to accomplish. Drones can help the AR units to maintain visual of the intruders by means of following them, and the drone also provides a quicker response time for the AR unit in difficult areas where it takes time to get to the threat.
Radar technology is a realistic option for securing large open areas on mines, because of the interaction between PTZ units as well as drones as mentioned above. However, there are shortfalls with radar as well, as thick dense bush inhibits the functionality of the radar itself – so in a large open-pit mining environment, it would work well, but it is not ideal for perimeters that have not been cut back, or maintained.
Mini thermal imaging cameras are being deployed that can assist the operators within the large machines to detect people. Optical cameras are great from a colour and identification point of view but when there is fog, mist or dust it becomes rather challenging. Mines are also using smart analytics on the thermals to detect people.
One would be able to link the camera solution to the Proximity Detection System (PDS) so that the operator gets a visual should there be another vehicle or person within close proximity to the moving vehicle.
Communications and perimeter protection
Underground voice and data communications (including video) are a reality in mines today. Emergency SOS points can be installed at key areas so that people are able to communicate with control and security if there are issues, or if they are in need. Using video, the control and security, and even health and safety departments, are able to get a visual and a better understanding of the situation taking place. This footage would then be captured and stored securely in the servers for reviewing at a later stage.
The latest technology developments in intrusion, alarm and perimeter detection include early detection systems utilising analytics, and primarily thermal technology. There are big strides being made on long-range thermal detection, where these analytics are assisting surveillance by tracking moving objects over long distances.
Radar has also become a talking point in the mining environment, and through integration, long-distance radar can pick people up and track them through the environment, and using optical cameras – PTZs – for verification. By incorporating an audio solution in critical areas, the control room can actively alert intruders to being discovered, and be more proactive.
Other products include taut wire detection and fibre-optic detection, alarming in the control room should there be any wires climbed, cut or if the system is tampered with.
Integration and control
The right way to deploy a perimeter surveillance solution needs to be centred around proactive assessment of alarms and to try and limit the reactive actions many mines have. By using AI (artificial intelligence) platforms and/or deep learning algorithms, many false alarms can be dismissed easily in a control room, and only true alarms need to be responded to.
This is also critical from an SHEQ perspective – if your surveillance solution is designed to alarm on people moving through a perimeter, the mine can minimise any potential incidents that could cause a shutdown. We are seeing integration between radar, audio, surveillance and even scada systems to bring a more holistic vision to how mines operate and gain better understanding of their solutions on site.
Linking in a scada or PLC system can trigger an alarm and guide a PTZ to the location in order for the control room to assess the potential problem. It could be a conveyor that has stopped moving, or even smelters that could be in distress.
There are many installers who have the capability and expertise to deploy an integrated perimeter solution, but care should be taken by mining companies in appointing the right integrator. History in the type of deployment, as well as reference sites of a solid working solution, are vital to assess.
There is more and more integration between access and surveillance and all mines should try and apply an integrated holistic approach to their physical security. Access is the first key point that could cause problems, and having double verification in terms of an access point and facial verification, for instance, could ensure that only the people who have the rights can access the mine.
Visitor access control is a solution that needs to be refined as well. By sending a QR code or barcode to the visitor, which can be verified by the surveillance solution, it becomes a controlled, managed solution.
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