Turkey has suffered from many mining accidents in the past years, and so have several other countries in the world. Regretfully, as the energy crisis grows bigger, mining activities are likely to increase faster than before and, as the whole nation, we will face more sad events like the most recent one.
Before writing about any issue, I tend to explore its historical, social, technological, political, and economic background, which allows me to form a well-thought-out analysis rather than a reactionary article.
Everyone was very happy at the beginning of the 21st century. World wars and conflicts that killed millions of people had come to an end, technology had become more involved in our daily lives, life expectancy had been prolonged, medicine had made huge strides, and working had turned into a more comfortable experience compared to the previous century.
However, the world has started to change gradually when two financial crises took place one after another, first in Turkey and then in the globe. Poverty was back, people started to lose their newly blossomed hope. Those who work hard under difficult conditions to earn their living have found themselves in a riskier and more hazardous work environment whereas they should have enjoyed a more comfortable job-life balance.
As the world has been struggling to eliminate child labour and poor working conditions, the economic environment has begun to weaken this noble fight. Countries that recently came out of financial crises and have been trying to heal their wounds amidst political unrest chose to stay away from practices that ensure justice and equality among all layers of society. Turkey, for instance, faced some irreparable losses as inadequate inspections dominated many sectoral assets of the country, chiefly including construction, ports, mines, and highways. In point of fact, we could have created safer environments for our people in these risky lines of work if we spent as much money as we did on technology we use in offices.
Since I am not a person of regret, I always try to find solutions to problems or seek those who have found one. Recently, I have stumbled upon a series of actions taken by Huawei to avoid mining, and I felt that it was my responsibility to share those with you.
As is known, underground mining is a very dangerous type of activity that employs a large number of people. Just last month, mining accidents happened in many countries, including Turkey. Shortly after that, Huawei started working on a new 5G-based system that could help prevent mining accidents, which will allow a safer, smarter, more efficient, and “greener” mining by matching artificial intelligence and data through an internet architecture. I tried to understand what solutions Huawei has produced to address more effectively production, excavation, transportation, and communication in mines.
The dust and the physical environment in the mines are the most challenging problems facing the miners. In fact, that environment itself prevents the establishment of a strong digital infrastructure. As the industry demands “fewer workers, more technology”, I was curious to find out what Huawei has to offer. I must emphasize that how difficult it is to install a real-time application that provides clear images and footage of a mine. It is not as easy as it looks or sounds. So, I decided to contact Huawei about this novelty and the answers I got were quite satisfying.
I don’t want to bore you with technological details, so let me give you the good news. The power of modern 5G technologies, the broadband capacity, and thousands of simultaneous channels allow us to remove all unwanted details, such as dust and soot, in images from a mine thanks. This new technology even brings a new feature capable of converting these clean images into panoramic ones for the health and safety personnel to monitor the underground tunnels thus ensure safe working conditions. It is now possible to detect any potential hazard in mines thanks to mechanisms that can filter the images before conventional alarm mechanisms could. Huawei has brought a novel technology that can clearly show the interior of a space with a diameter of 20 meters, a technology that helps above-ground personnel take immediate action to prevent or reduce the risk of any underground hazard that could seriously injure the miners.
“Excavating in Mines With Fewer Number of Workers…”
As I mentioned earlier, excavating is the hardest, most troublesome, and the most dangerous part of the mining activity. Most of the accidents, a global average of 40% to be exact, occur during this artificial creation of cavities that are used to open and transport mineral deposits. In traditional mining, human labour, knowledge of experienced miners and the resulting consolidation activity are used at this stage to ensure the safety of underground workers. Of course, I greatly respect experience, but let me just offer one more statistic: 40% of mining accidents take place during tunnelling, and half of these accidents is caused by human error.
The simultaneous alarm technology of 5G immediately warns the health and safety personnel of the errors that endanger human life during excavation and information on the needed technical reinforcements are transmitted to the whole mining personnel, which clearly means proactive mining, not reactive.
The transport of the mined ore and minerals is another challenging task. Troughed belt conveyors can sometimes be tens of kilometres long, which are checked by personnel at regular intervals. This means that a greater number of people work underground, which is another detail that increases the risk factor. Huawei’s 5G system offers a technology that helps reduce the number of staff responsible for monitoring the conveyors. It seems like a quite reasonable and appropriate suggestion to me, given the fact that the more people work in mines, the more people are at risk. I really hope that mining investors in Turkey consider this new technology.
While reading the reports on mining, I came across an issue that considerably surprised me. More than 1000 different tools are used in the mines for production purposes alone and half of them are not connected to any centralized or automated system. This situation leads to complexity and inefficiency both in inventory management and operations, and also weakens coordination. Huawei has a solution to this problem as well. They devised a simple software easy to understand and control which ensures that different tools and machines speak the same language, transmit data to each other and be aware of their environment.
A revolutionary stride indeed.
According to this lifesaving system, in case of a gas leak, any device will be capable of sounding alarm or giving any other warning, thus creating a safe escape organization. All machinery and devices that might pose a danger when there’s gas leak will be immediately shut down, and the ventilation mechanism will operate above normal performance. Most importantly, all of this will happen in mere seconds.
As far as I understand, in order for all this can be put into practice effectively, all mining-related experience must be collected from experienced people working in that specific mine and from machines used in that specific mine and be uploaded as an algorithm. Each new implementation requires a laborious process, but it’s a low price to pay for protecting and saving human lives. If there is the chance to save human lives and protect human health with a little effort, I believe that everyone will do it gladly. Any investment to protect people who try to make a living and provide for their family under difficult working conditions so that we can lead a comfortable life is a worthy investment.
I would like to congratulate Huawei for their valuable efforts and emphasize once again that the mining industry leaders in Turkey should also consider using high technology to protect human lives.