Due to the inherent dangers of mining, safety training is important. In the mining industry, virtual and augmented reality is being used to replace outdated and inefficient training with more effective immersive experiences.
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Training Challenges in the Mining Industry
Risk of accident
During on-the-job training, new workers learn to use new equipment, tools and machines. Because they lack the basic training and expertise to operate specific machinery, this increases the likelihood of an accident.
Most mining companies expect their employees, especially new hires, to contribute to their day-to-day tasks and expedite the training process as quickly as possible. New miners are left in confusion and uncertainty because they lack a solid foundation.
Training is an expensive undertaking due to the costs of equipment, facilitation, employee time, and room rental. Training expenditures are generally limited, but training needs are still high.
Lack of appropriate trainers
Mining industries usually assign their best workers as trainers to the new worker. However, most of the time they don’t turn out to be the best trainers because they lack the necessary skills. Without qualified trainers, training can backfire, leading to confusion for new workers, wasted time, and ruined projects.
Traditional training methods
Classroom training programs
A trained facilitator often teaches classroom learning. Employees work in groups to review presentation slides and exercises such as case study assessments and information on typical mining practices, safety and accidents.
On vocational training
On-the-job training is a type of training that takes place in the workplace. New workers rub shoulders with more experienced workers under normal working conditions. By completing assignments under supervision, they gain hands-on experience. Employees become more efficient and productive through the feedback they receive.
Other than self-assessment, there is no assessment or feedback option in the on-the-job training. Those who are familiar with mining operations but lack experience performing a task can benefit from on-the-job experience.
How is virtual and augmented reality changing the face of mining training?
Virtual Reality (VR)
A computer-generated simulation is called virtual reality. This is an artificial simulation of a real situation. Users are completely absorbed by the virtual environment. They have the feeling of being immersed in reality.
Augmented Reality (AR)
In augmented reality, 3D visuals are superimposed on real-world scenes. By overlaying digital content onto a real work environment, industrial augmented reality enables the creation and delivery of easily consumable work instructions. To combine the digital and physical worlds, augmented reality programs are created that can be used using mobile phones.
Implementation of Virtual and Augmented Reality in Training
Virtual reality in mining enables the training of mine workers, operators and managers in a virtual mine, making the whole mining process safer and more efficient. Teams can practice their skills in virtual reality before working in real mining environments.
Trainers can also train miners around the world without having to travel by mixing step-by-step instructions with holographic images, which would provide a more immersive and engaging learning environment.
New employees can explore every aspect of the site and even interact with the various virtual elements around them, resulting in better learning retention and improved performance.
Custom built-in-mine virtual settings are used for emergency planning, accident reconstruction, and worker safety training.
Virtual reality is also used in the mining industry for scenario-based training. A virtual copy of the mine is created using large screen projection systems. Different parts of the training can be created where learners can explore a mine by program questions.
Augmented reality can improve situational awareness, improve training for new workers, and help imagine real-world situations. When training new drillers, AR can provide them with a visual representation of the drilling process. AR can also be used to track the location and orientation of mining equipment on rock surfaces in real time.
Benefits of virtual and augmented reality
Teaching virtual and augmented reality involves safety considerations and allows trainees to learn through a virtual experience. A business can also use this tool to demonstrate the ramifications of not following standard operating procedures.
With immersive training, new workers can more effectively assimilate training material as they are immersed in fully engaged and focused scenarios. This makes it easier to memorize lessons and gives new workers a chance to practice what they have learned.
Virtual and augmented reality challenges
Professional AR headsets are expensive and bulky hardware that may be out of reach for the general public. Additionally, some augmented reality headsets require connection to a computer via cables, which makes the whole experience impractical.
While augmented reality is a hot topic of conversation among techies, the general public is unaware of the benefits of technology. A lack of information can cause users to worry about their privacy and security when interacting with augmented reality technology.
Physical Security Risks
Augmented reality-based apps can be quite distracting. When applied in potentially risky areas such as mining, augmented reality applications can lead to accidents.
One problem with VR headsets is that they can produce nausea, headaches, and illness. VR equipment can create eye problems due to continuous exposure.
Recent developments in virtual and augmented reality in training
Vale collaborated with NORCAT to develop a blended learning program for the global mining industry. An immersive learning experience will incorporate virtual and augmented reality.
Pre-operational circular checks and virtual training exercises for mining equipment such as forklifts and utility vehicles will be conducted in virtual reality as part of the program.
Multinational mining company Anglo American invested $90 million in training courses in 2019. The LEARN+ platform, which integrated AR and VR learning activities, was launched to help train employees to create a safe working environment .
Shantanu and the team at Tecknotrove have developed a cost-effective solution to teach and assess workers on safe excavation practices and site safety. Making the simulator portable and compatible with virtual reality will save the industry millions of dollars in training and operating costs.
The potential of virtual and augmented reality in mining is limitless. With even more developments in virtual and augmented technology, mining organizations will not only be able to devise better strategies, but will also be able to provide a safer working environment for everyone involved.
References and further reading
Casey, J. (2021). Fight against the coronavirus. [Online] Global Mining Review. Available at: https://www.globalminingreview.com/special-reports/18032021/the-future-of-mine-training-is-vr/ (accessed April 25, 2022).
Zhang, H. (2017). Intuitive virtual reality training system based on a head-mounted display for the mining industry. International Journal of Mining Science and Technology, 27(4), 717-722. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.05.005
Anglo-American. (2019). Integrated annual report 2019. [Online]. Available at: https://www.angloamerican.com/~/media/Files/A/Anglo-American-Group/PLC/investors/annual-reporting/2020/aa-annual-report-2019.pdf/ (Accessed on April 25, 2022).
Peters, R.H. (2002). Strategies to improve the training of miners (#9463). US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh, PA and Spokane, WA Research Laboratories. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/userfiles/works/pdfs/ic9463.pdf