Technology secures mines

May 2010 Integrated Solutions, Mining (Industry)

Mine security can be enhanced with the correct application of the appropriate technology.

One of South Africa’s largest producers and employers, the country’s mining sector is being relentlessly battered by crime. According to Zane Greeff, technical director of Elvey Security Technologies, it is critical for the mining sector to embrace new security technology if it is to stem ongoing, profit-pounding product and equipment theft.

In its own right, the mining sector is South Africa’s second biggest contributor to the country’s GDP after the agricultural sector. Home to one of the world’s largest reserves of chrome, gold, vanadium, manganese and PGMs (propylene glycol monostearates), it is also the seat of the majority of Africa’s metal and mineral production (according to Statistics SA).

“The mining sector employs more than 500 000 people, whose livelihoods are increasingly at stake as a result of the theft of precious metals and equipment. Throughout the sector, profitability is being undermined to the point where some operations have stopped production and laid off their workers,” says Greeff.

While praising initiatives such as educational workshops which are being implemented to address the problem and hopefully discourage at least some of the criminally-inclined among employees, he says crime – much of it driven by insiders – shows little sign of abating.

Complex areas

The challenges of securing a complex site such as a mine are extreme. “Mines, which are often located in remote areas without power cables or telephones, require specialised security products capable of sending wireless alarm signals through to the control room. These same devices also need to be able to detect motion and react to it immediately by videoing the event and then sending it back to the control room or relevant cellphone or e-mail,” says Greeff.

Fortunately, on the back of recent and huge technological strides within the security industry, mine owners have access to top-of-the-range solutions that are crammed with crime-busting features. Particularly impressive are those that boast fully waterproof, anti-tamper cameras with CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) black and white sensors, 85° wide-angle lenses, 320 x 240 pixel video resolution and two infrared LEDs to provide night illumination up to 12 m. Through their PIR (passive infrared) ability to detect movement, they are able to activate sophisticated Fresnel lenses to begin recording in less than 100 milliseconds. Because these systems are completely wireless, they can be installed anywhere, and in minutes. Testimony to their effectiveness is documented proof of cameras transmitting over a distance of 300 m to communicator panels.

He recommends the same type of solution for abandoned mine shafts, which he says are the hunting grounds of illegal miners chasing residual minerals. Although these shafts are no longer officially in production, they are serious headaches for the mine holding company, which invariably ends up having to foot the bill for security guards to patrol the area and notify the control room in the event of any disturbance.

Boundary protection

Mine owners desperate to protect entire boundaries or pinpoint spots where criminals have tried to gain entry are bound to be impressed by the latest in microwave cable perimeter intrusion detection systems. “One of the most impressive and sophisticated perimeter security systems on the market,” says Greeff, “protects more than 2,1 million metres of perimeter fencing worldwide.

“Prospective users will be interested to know that the sensor is a volumetric, terrain-following sensor able to reliably detect and precisely locate walking, running or crawling intruders along the perimeter,” he notes. “The cable technology can detect any fence disturbance and narrow it down to within 3 m. This it does through the use of proprietary digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms, which can pick up any attempt to cut or climb the fence while ignoring noise from wind, rain and heavy vehicles. What is more, the microwave cable transmits alarm signals and operating power to all modules and auxiliary sensors along the perimeter, which eliminates the need for extra wiring.”

The software interfaces directly with a personal computer which becomes the alarm monitoring display and graphic map. The result is a system that not only provides unparalleled performance and eliminates the extremely irritating problem of false alarms which plagues most other fence sensors but also offers measurable cost savings.

For more information contact Kenny Chiu, Elvey, +27 (0)11 401 6700,


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