Mining is a highly dangerous and volatile industry that requires strong corporate and government oversight. The extraction of iron ore, gold, lithium, nickel, coal and other minerals are inherently dangerous processes with potentially serious consequences. To ensure safety and productivity in mining, reliable communication with workers and the enforcement of corporate-approved permitting processes are crucial. Now, mine operators have access to an advanced technology solution that meets these requirements.
Drawing on decades of experience in mining and in operational risk management, Sphera’s Control of Work (CoW) for Mining solution is specifically configured for the metals, mining and mineral processing industries. Key features of the solution support the comprehensive process rigor of the industry. These include dynamic checklist capabilities to accommodate a wide range of mining-specific business processes. Among these are robust isolations management, lockout/tagout (LOTO) capabilities and mobile permitting. The easy-to-use online/offline functionality allows contractors and employees within remote locations to always have access to view and update permits, even where connectivity is limited.
Through Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining, mine operators can manage activities in real time to achieve faster permit turnarounds that also meet the safety requirements set by corporations and comply with regulations. These functionalities serve to increase safety, reduce risk and help build a solid operational environmental, social and governance (ESG) foundation.
Fueling Clean Energy and Operational ESG
Decarbonization and net-zero goals are changing the composition of energy production. For example, the EU Renewable Energy Directive sets a common target of 32% for renewable energy consumption by 2030. However, renewable energy does not come from sunshine, wind or water alone.
With this shift away from coal for energy generation, mining companies will have to diversify their mining portfolio and pursue other types of mining, for example, focus on minerals and metals. Indeed, clean energy technologies will “supercharge” the demand for critical minerals, according to the International Energy Agency. Low-carbon power generation also requires turbines, generators, panels and not least, grids.
Energy networks take up a large share of the demand for minerals, particularly copper and aluminum. And grids are set to expand to accommodate the rising contributions from renewables. Energy storage, including batteries for electric vehicles (EV) and hydrogen power, rely on metals and minerals such as lithium and nickel, among others. Smelting or extraction presents another set of hazards that accompany the use of acids and toxic chemicals or extremely high pressures.
Because of the risks posed by mining and smelting, the entire series of processes requires comprehensive permit to work processes. There is an urgent need for a digital solution that helps mine operators and workers reduce the risk of injury, while enabling the industry to improve, drive consistency and make their operations safer, more sustainable and more productive. As societies accelerate their transition to clean energy, meeting these dual aims can ultimately determine the mining company’s ability to remain competitive.
Managing and Mitigating Mining Risks Efficiently
Workforce issues also give rise to risk. Mining companies regularly rely on contractors, particularly during maintenance phases. However, enlisting contractors also creates an added layer of complexity, as mine operators traditionally have less ability to enforce company standards because these contractors often lack the knowledge of the company’s policies. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that contractors are at a greater risk of injury or harm than direct hires. At the same time, the aging workforce translates into loss of expertise.
Most mining companies and suppliers to the industry have mature and well-formed policies to protect the workforce and contractors. Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining supports their top priority of safety and environmental management, as well as the drive for improved productivity. Incidents can lead to major fines and penalties or potential shutdowns, which could cause millions of dollars in lost productivity – all the more reason for a digital control of work solution.
To ensure safe and reliable operations, mining operators require the ability to understand the operational reality. This means knowing what is happening, where it is happening, when it is happening and what is driving the risk, so they can make better, more informed decisions. The complexity of the mining industry makes digital documentation essential to reduce risk and improve productivity. However, many companies still rely on paper permits or allow each location to operate their own disparate permitting system.
Sphera’s Progressive Web Application (PWA) provides online/offline mobile functionality that can be leveraged by maintenance and contractors even when they are underground, in remote locations or without internet access. Permits can be completed with geotagging and time stamp functionality, even in offline mode. Once internet service is restored, the critical information is uploaded directly into the system. This way, operators can easily ensure that safety procedures and standards are being followed.
Gaining Visibility and Increasing Safety with a Flexible Digital Solution
Preventing incidents is paramount to reducing or eliminating the risk of injury to the workforce, minimizing damage to the environment and safeguarding the operator’s reputation. Relying on outdated paper-based permit to work systems can prevent mine operators from achieving the necessary visibility to operate productively and safely.
With Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining, mine operators can improve communication, enforce standardization, reduce risk and increase safety. The platform approach supports operational ESG by:
- Combining information from permits, isolations, hazards, maintenance shifts and SIMOPS to provide full visibility. Digital sharing of permitting across locations, enhanced by GPS tracking, ensures that the right work is performed at the right place.
- Ensuring that inspections, maintenance and preventive activities are performed only after safety measures, such as a lockout/tagout (LOTO) process, are in place.
- Connecting employees, contractors and maintenance crews through the solution’s online/offline mobile application for greater safety and efficiency. Managing activity with control takes place in real time, not in permit duration.
Moving from paper permits to digital permits set through Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining enables mine operators to better enforce policies and procedures across locations. They gain visibility and can ensure that contractors or maintenance crews do not take short cuts that put them, equipment or the mine at risk.
Streamlining Processes for Better Decisions
Real-time data helps mining operators address risks and compliance issues before these become critical. Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining helps enforce the proper use of permits and policies for safe operations. Equally important, with digitized permits, mine operators can prove the standardization of policies to internal and external regulators. Locating archived permits is easy, with no more searching through filing cabinets.
Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining enables operators to:
- Harness the complexity and power of data to make better business decisions.
- Close the loop between Operations, Maintenance, Planning, Engineering and Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) to get more work done.
- Achieve faster turnaround by reusing permit templates to streamline the permitting process.
With Control of Work for Mining, workers can view, execute and update activity details and status digitally to streamline processes. Operators can verify these through GPS and time-stamped tracking. Digital permits that are created at one mine can be templated, copied and utilized at other mines. This saves time and effort for the workers and contractors who move from mine to mine. With better ways to share knowledge and updates, productivity improves.
Meeting Compliance and Governance Expectations
Mining operations are subject to strict federal and extensive regional regulations. Operators must adhere to regulations at all levels and provide reports and documentation to prove that operations are compliant.
Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining supports the compliance effort by providing:
- Integrated digital permits, isolations/LOTO and task risk assessments that are available on request.
- Evidence of standardized policies that result in consistent operational practices.
- Digital documentation of all business operations with a full audit trail.
In the mining industry, stakeholder expectations around compliance are extremely high. Demands to keep workers safe are joined by calls to contain damage to air, land and water. A greater focus on ESG performance is accompanied by increasing scrutiny of high-risk industries. Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining helps operators ensure safe, productive and compliant mining operations.
Tailored to the Needs of Mining Operations
Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining helps mine operators improve safety, achieve compliance and boost productivity. With its unique set of capabilities, our solution enables:
- Standardization of processes.
- Prompt communication.
- Improved oversight.
- Clear guidance in digital permits.
- Greater efficiency.
Sphera’s powerful mobile solution with online and offline capabilities delivers the most effective and efficient tool on the market to enable safe, productive and compliant mining operations.
To learn more about Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining, please download our brochure and register for our upcoming webinar. Contact us to learn more about what Sphera’s Control of Work for Mining can do to help you achieve your operational goals.