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Weathering the perfect storm: safety, environment & production

Supplier: Solar Power Australia
08 December, 2010

Mining operations are under ever increasing scrutiny, both in an environmental sense and from the viewpoint of providing safe and productive work environments for their employees.

While this occurs against a backdrop for the need to maintain tight production schedules, there is the ever present risk that one of these aspects - safety, environment, production – will fail.  Since the operational mine is variable in nature, with the need to constantly move or expand (requiring new infrastructure such as roadways and storage areas) the risk is heightened.  Herein lies the challenge for mine operational personnel - ensuring that safety, environment and production objectives are met without any short cuts.

One aspect to ensuring all these goals are met is the fast deployment of flexible, standalone general lighting where needed, which meets all necessary standards.  It has been proven time and time again that productivity, and more importantly the safety of workers, is directly dependent on the adequacy of lighting levels.  Adequate lighting is necessary for workers to perform various tasks safely, typically maintenance, and also ensures their greater visibility to moving plant and machinery.  There have been documented cases of fatalities, and numerous near misses, as a direct result of poor lighting.

Traditionally, diesel power portable lighting towers have been used, however the trend is now moving towards alternate lighting solutions.  These solutions still provide flexibility of light on demand, but are less burdensome in terms of running costs and maintenance, and are softer on the environment – in essence, less hassle for mine management. 

Brett Sutherland, Managing Director of Solar Power Australia, certainly acknowledges the challenges faced by today’s mining operations.  His company provides a range of tailor made solar power solutions for its business customers, and he sees the provision of a well designed and reliable solar lighting package for mine operations as a key part to the company’s service and product offering. 

Sutherland told Australasian Mining Review "We want to take the pressure off the guys operating the mines. They are under a lot of pressure on a day to day basis, and our skid mounted portable solar lighting package is designed to make their life easier."

Solar Power Australia has obviously put a lot of effort and design know-how into the package.  Sutherland added "We wanted to be able to offer a simple, flexible, reliable solar lighting unit.  It had to be as ‘tough as nails’ in order to handle the rough treatment that is part of normal day to day mining operations, and ensure safe operating lighting levels would be available whenever and wherever needed."

Whilst traditional diesel powered units have been used to supply mobile lighting, portable diesel lighting can be quite complex, involving hydraulics, electrics and the diesel engine itself.  Running costs for these units mount up, given the cost of fuel and refuelling, plus additional maintenance required to ensure reliability.  Breakdown, or hiring these units at inopportune times, can also prove to be disruptive and costly to mine operations.

Additionally, there is ever increasing scrutiny of the mining sector in its efforts to offset greenhouse gas generation and reduce its environmental footprint.  Solar lighting is certainly a step in the right direction in this respect.  Unlike a diesel lighting plant, greenhouse gas emissions and running costs are zero, and the units are maintenance free.

Sutherland said "We have used the latest LED lighting technology, in conjunction with a galvanised steel construction, to create an automated, maintenance free, portable lighting system."

For these reasons, it is most likely we will see a greater demand for solar power lighting in the mine environment into the future.