Mining sector adopts multi-tiered security approach

June 2014 Mining (Industry)

Due to the high-value nature of its raw materials and products, the mining sector is understandably wary about sharing its security secrets. One thing is certain though, in varying degrees of sophistication and integration, mining houses are tackling the various security risks head on with a combination of technologies and methodologies.

Nash Lutchman, senior vice president of protection services at Sibanye Gold.
Nash Lutchman, senior vice president of protection services at Sibanye Gold.

Nash Lutchman, senior vice president of protection services at Sibanye Gold says that the organisation has a multi-tiered, end-to-end security risk mitigation strategy. This strategy is technology driven and is supported by good investigation and crime information capabilities. He says that the biggest security issues that Sibanye Gold faces are risk events associated with theft of company property, theft of product, theft of copper, and illegal mining activities.

This approach includes a layered physical security architecture which starts at the perimeter (area of lower risk) and works inwards towards the areas of high security risk, such as in the processing plant. He points out that the perimeter elements include early warning alarm systems as well as physical deterrents such as gates, electrified fencing and CCTV cameras (infrared, thermal, static cameras and video motion detection). This is complemented by security officers patrolling the entire perimeter and the inner premises, together with tactical response teams.

The next point of contact is the access control system which begins at or near to the perimeter and includes card readers together with biometric fingerprint readers and facial recognition technology in some instances. He explains that the level of sophistication increases as one moves from the perimeter to the high risk areas. Lutchman says that stop and search procedures are employed, mainly within the confines of the inner buildings, where internal threat is a problem.

X-ray scanners and metal detection equipment are used to scan people and objects moving from the interior of the facilities to the exterior to ensure that theft does not occur. Conversely it is used to ensure that no forbidden substances illegally enter the premises.

Together with this technology, Sibanye Gold has a complex set of rules and procedures in place to identify and treat risk through investigations, crime threat analysis, crime pattern analysis and disruption operations.

Making sense of security data

Ian Downie, sales and marketing director at Xone Integrated Security.
Ian Downie, sales and marketing director at Xone Integrated Security.

Ian Downie, sales and marketing director at Xone Integrated Security, says that there has been a shift in the mining space regarding technology safety and security. Most technology has become digital, which allows every field device to provide information back to a command centre. This vast amount of information is enormously valuable for operations as well as rapid and informed response to safety and security issues.

However, the vast amount of data and video needs to be managed, integrated and driven to allow meaningful functionality. In order to achieve this, clearly defined and automated processes, coupled with strong command and control, are required. A correctly designed control room, coupled with carefully defined processes, driven by competent staff, allow for true potential to be unlocked.

Powerful data mining allows not only efficient real-time response, but also powerful reporting which can assist with staff management, safety, operational efficiency, detection of hazardous events prior to a disaster, strike management and multiple other benefits. Various security divisions within organisations operate the investigations as well as safety and security elements. Technology has powerful data mining capabilities and can therefore provide added business benefits.

He says many mines use a control room to drive the command and control of the entire safety and security environment. The multi-tiered control room has various defined processes such as monitoring of access control and surveillance; incident management fund usage and safety; as well as the issuing of stock in line with the requisite paperwork.

Process before technology

These multi-tiered control rooms allow targeted surveillance, reviews and high level reporting. Workflow, policy implementation, black screen monitoring and analysis of trends and tendencies become feasible. Management by exception becomes possible. Lutchman claims that the industry has seen a great improvement in the identification and treatment of security risks over the past 10 years.

He says that in order to more astutely deal with threats, one needs to understand the risks, as well as weaknesses and vulnerabilities within the control regime. In addition to identifying perpetrators and recovering stolen property, investigations uncover weaknesses in operational processes and can possibly identify areas of vulnerability where solutions are not in line with security best practice.

He continues that the pure visibility of security systems is being succeeded by process security, which entails the management of processes. An example would be matching the waybill up to the actual cargo on a truck. Security management can then deploy resources to disrupt negative patterns or trends.

Sibanye Gold took a decision to align and integrate all once disparate security systems on to one common platform. Lutchman explains that this allows them to review and evaluate all the systems simultaneously, for added value. This includes the integration of the access control system, surveillance and metal detection, and has resulted in improved analysis and interrogation of data. He stresses that to make any integrated system successful, it is critical to ensure that the correct policies, procedures and standards are in place.

There are two forms of electronic surveillance implementation within Sibanye Gold – macroscopic and microscopic. The macroscopic system is implemented in the general risk areas and could, for example, include video motion detection cameras for improved intelligence, and specific cameras which are utilised for occupational health and safety (OHS) purposes. The microscopic system is deployed to the high risk specific areas such as within the processing plant.

Downie points out that sometimes the mines drive the implementation process, while in other instances it may come from consultants. Unfortunately, mines often take a piecemeal approach to security, which can have negative consequences. He claims that a fragmented approach does not provide any tangible benefits but an outcomes based approach will provide the optimum results as it is based on using the best processes, best technology and best people for the task at hand.

Man or machine?

Automation will result in reduced human capital related costs such as, training, wages, housing and medical expenses, which can be reallocated to other areas of need within the organisation. In addition, it reduces the likelihood of injury and loss of life, which has benefits in terms of costs and organisational image. “However, I do not foresee that machines will take over the human element. It’s more a case of the technology complementing the human element and replacing it in areas where there is a tangible safety and cost benefit,” says Lutchman.

Downie says that a balance between business activity and caring for the community is essential. Due to ongoing and damaging industrial action, it has been necessary to increase previous levels of automation to ensure sustainability of mining operations and security systems. He believes that the judicious use of technology is appropriate in certain instances where cost reduction is a driving force.

Lutchman says that partial automation of operations can also be motivated from an OHS perspective. Technology can assist greatly in terms of guiding preventative behaviour and processes as far as issues such as seismic activity, temperature, and the presence of gas are concerned.

Illegal mining

Lutchman says that we must not underestimate the huge negative effect illegal mining has on the industry. The two biggest issues it causes are the erosion of profit margins and the OHS perspective. In addition to the costs incurred through theft of ore, in many instances production has to be stopped to remove illegal miners from potentially hazardous areas. He says that it is important to differentiate between small scale mining, which is legal as long as it does not take place where there is a legislated mining concession, and illegal mining, which does not follow any specific rules or regulations and which occurs in concessioned mining areas.

Illegal mining also has a negative effect on the environment since illegal miners use crude methodologies to extract and process ore, resulting in uncontrolled damage. The mining infrastructure and environmental stability of countries such as South Africa, Ghana and Peru, for instance are severely threatened by the presence of illegal mining.

Lutchman proposes that access control systems will form the backbone of any preventative measures against illegal mining. However, organisations need to consider and counter internal collusion with employees in order to make this an effective control mechanism. He says that Sibanye Gold employs a number of employee specialists who investigate the mine looking for tell-tale signs which indicate the presence of illegal miners.

In addition, accidental confrontations between legal and illegal miners provides further feedback. The information security managers derive is used to target these areas and arrest the illegal miners. In some instances, sick illegal miners are left in a strategic place by their fellow miners so they can be collected by mine personnel for treatment. This is also the case where illegal mining groups administer their own form of justice on erring individuals by tying them up and leaving them to be found by legal miners.

Downie states that the very latest in security technology can help mining companies to deal more effectively with the problem. He says that securing a shaft mine presents unique challenges, but by combining the very latest in technology with efficient processes and expert personnel it is possible to dramatically lower instances of illegal mining.

Besides the security staples like CCTV surveillance, access control, physical guarding and alarms, technology is now available to enable mine managers to track individual employees and assets more closely and pick up anomalies in behaviour. Better technology also makes it possible to secure areas which, due to their vast size are impossible to enclose and patrol effectively.

World view

Downie says that on a global level, security technology is coming to the fore in integrated control room environments which allow business processes to be driven by incident management, command and control, surveillance, work flow and governmental/policy decisions. He says that management platforms are becoming more advanced and this allows for every security device to provide relevant data to environments such as control rooms. This in turn allows for a level of analysis and reporting never seen before, as well as the ability to sift through the vast amounts of data and video automatically and to rapidly allow appropriate response and information gathering to deal with threats appropriately.

Downie says that there is an increasing emphasis on control rooms being able to deal with operational efficiencies, safety, productivity and security. Furthermore, intelligence gathering and situational awareness allow for in-depth reports and analysis of all facets of the mining process. The inevitable consequence is that control room design and staffing, coupled with process implementation requires a specialist skill that guarding companies and integrators usually cannot provide. As such a new breed of security providers and consultants with a holistic view is emerging. Multi-tier and remote monitoring capabilities with clear functional differentiation is also a clearly growing trend.

Lutchman says that South Africa places great emphasis on security when compared to mining operations in other parts of the world. In countries like Australia there is no real perceived risk but in countries where security is deployed it is generally risk driven and uses a layered approach. “Throughout Africa we are seeing increasing use of remote static surveillance, powered by solar power with GPS positioning technology. In addition, drones equipped with cameras beam footage back to a centralised control room.”


Downie believes that by implementing smart technology, driven by the suitable level of trained and knowledgeable employee, according to a defined process, mines can unlock greater value. This is typically driven by multi-tier control rooms providing real command and control, meaningful reporting and trend analysis. It provides a speedy and efficient understanding of security issues and input on how to deal with them. Furthermore, every facet of the mining operation can achieve improvements such as enhanced safety and productivity, minimised losses and improved return on investment.

Lutchman says that the traditional approach of using security equipment solely for security purposes is now almost unheard of. Mining houses have discovered that the wealth of data derived from security systems can be used to improve production figures.


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