Kumba: Safer mining with SSR-XT

THABAZIMBI – The development of a more improved Slope Stability Radar system, the XT model, is assisting Kumba Iron Ore mine in predicting slope failures more accurately and therefore mine more safely.

The SSR-XT system was designed by a company called Ground Probe, who has commended Kumba for jumping at the opportunity to be the first company to try out the advanced XT system. The new SSR-XT system has been operational since June this year.

The first Slope Stability Radar system was implemented at Kumba in 2003 and could probably be directly linked to the mine’s excellent safety record. No fatalities have occurred over the past seven years and the past 2 years have gone without one LTI (Lost Time Injury).

Not only has the SSR and improvements on it assisted in safer mining for personel, but it has also helped protect equipment and optimize production. Post blast delays have been reduced as well as production during wet weather have improved.

According to Ivan Smit of Geotechnical Services at Kumba, when a pit is designed, it is done with the help of geohydrological, geological and geotechnical studies of a specific area. There is, however, always a measure of risk involved and the Slope Stability Radar is an invaluable tool in monitoring the stability of rock walls and slopes and predicting failures.

The SSR-XT uses radar technology and therefore does not require contact with the monitor area. It scans the surface area of slopes inside mining pits for any changes of up to 0,2mm with intervals of between 2 and 10 minutes for 24 hours on a daily basis. If movement occurs which might be indicative of a failure, the data is transferred to a monitoring system and alarms are set off to evacuate the pit.

The last serious failure occurred during 2008 at the Buffelshoek West Pit and the system enabled operators to take all the necessary precautions in time to ensure the safety of staff, equipment and minimize loss of production.

The new SSR model XT is a new addition, and according to Geoff Pereira (Sales and Contract Manager at Ground Probe), is a more robust model which can operate in rugged conditions, has a faster scan time and produces improved data quality. The scope for mistakes or failures within the new improved model has been minimized even further.

At a media function on Thursday 5 November at Rra Ditau introducing the new SSR-XT model, Ground Probe has awarded Kumba a trophy for its good safety record. Representatives of mining magazines attended the function and was taken on a site tour inside a mine pit to observe the operation of the SSR-XT.

Hennie Pauw