Sustainable mining requires holistic solutions. It is not just productivity and efficiency that are vital – everything related to safety needs to be in place too. Mining & Construction Magazine visited Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia to find out more about an award-winning collaboration.
In a dusty and noisy tunnel, Patrik Persson, Service Engineer from Epiroc Sweden, is standing with service technicians and operators next to the Scooptram ST1030 loader. “So, what should we check next?” asks Persson. A service technician points at a safety pin that locks the center hinge and boom. The group of people walk around the loader and carefully check each safety item, such as oil and brakes. Persson explains what condition each item should be in before the loader is turned on, and a safety checklist is ticked. “For instance, operators must perform a brake test before every shift,” he says.
"For instance, operators must perform a brake test before every shift"
This scene is being played out 1 300 meters below ground level at the Oyu Tolgoi mine in the South Gobi region of Mongolia. It is one of the biggest copper mines in the world, but also contains gold and silver resources. Both open pit and underground mining techniques are used to extract the metals.
The mine is operated by Oyu Tolgoi LLC with a number of contractors on site. Epiroc Mongolia is one of the main contractors for underground drills and other equipment, providing maintenance services for its drills and other equipment operated at Oyu Tolgoi. Patrik Persson is here to train the technicians and operators who will operate and carry out maintenance on the Scooptram ST1030 loader. An important part of the training that Epiroc provides, not just at Oyu Tolgoi but in general, is related to safety. The basic safety approach is to always make sure that the customer knows how to operate Epiroc equipment before starting to use it.
“When we supply any equipment to a customer, safety is the first thing we consider,” says Bayar Torguud, Business Line Manager Epiroc Mongolia. “Everyone who interacts with or uses machines or equipment must be safe. Equipment should be used correctly. After our products are supplied to the customer, we work on maintenance services in line with the customer’s needs.”
At Oyu Tolgoi, Epiroc Mongolia provides maintenance services for 32 pieces of equipment: mostly underground drill rigs, but also two new loaders – the Scooptram ST14 and Scooptram ST1030. The team consists of more than 100 people, including managers, supervisors and technicians. “We started with seven machines and 30 people,” says Project Manager Alfred Lawrence. “We have done it safely, having seen a lot of personal development not only in technical skills, but also in Oyu Tolgoi’s safety awareness.” He continues: “Safety is always the first topic to be addressed at the start of each shift. We discuss safety issues and invite team members to talk about their safety experiences. That’s important to us because we don’t want to see people injured. People have the right to come to work and be safe.”
Oyu Tolgoi LLC requires its contractors to live up to high safety standards. Lost time injury (LTI) is one of the main indicators for safety performance, and each contractor’s safety initiatives matter – adding to the site’s overall safety. Epiroc’s approach has been successful too. When Oyu Tolgoi LLC evaluated safety performance among its contractors, Epiroc received the Safety Recognition award for the first quarter of 2018 and the Best Safety Performance Mining Contractor award for the second quarter of 2018. “What we call a safety initiative is identifying any hazard and making sure that it doesn’t become a risk to health and safety,” says Alfred Lawrence. “Simple things can often have a big impact. For example, reducing a tripping hazard underground. If someone had slipped, it could have led to anything from a broken leg to a loss time injury.”