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Risk-free safety for miners becomes a virtual reality

01 March, 2012

A new risk-free way to train Queensland mine workers how to operate safely - and respond to mine emergency situations - is about to become a virtual reality.

The Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation's Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station is developing Queensland's first Virtual Reality Immersive Mine Training Facility at its Redbank headquarters.
Queensland Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health, Stewart Bell, said the facility is another first for Simtars which enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a world leader in innovative mine safety training and technology.
"Immersive virtual reality mine training will allow trainees to experience first-hand all the sights and sounds of the 'mine' environment without any of the risk," Bell said.
"They will experience life-like mine conditions but be able to respond to emergency scenarios in a safe and controlled environment."
Bell said the Simtars virtual reality mine training facility is being developed in partnership with Brisbane company VR Space.
"State-of-the-art real-time interactive graphics and immersive display technology will be a feature of the training courses.
"Courses will include safety, hazard awareness, mine gas management, incident response and multi-agency emergency management.

"A 3D replica of a working Queensland underground coal mine is the foundation of the immersive training course experience.

"In partnership with Vale Australia, Simtars modelled the mine in high detail to include all above and underground equipment and infrastructure including; operating longwall, continuous miners, loaders, shuttle cars, belt systems, support, ventilation devices and safety equipment."
Initially, virtual reality training will focus on underground coal mine safety but Simtars plans to expand future courses to cover metalliferous and open cut mining.
Bell said mining is an inherently hazardous business where mistakes can lead to catastrophic events.
"Real-time virtual reality mine safety training is the way of the future," he said.

"It will enable trainees to safely experience and examine situations from many perspectives - including time and event pressure which is not possible in real-life - reducing the potential for critical mistakes to occur in the workplace.
"There are also obvious benefits to the mining industry.
"A better skilled workforce means a safer working environment, better safety awareness and operational efficiency, and fewer days lost through injury.
"They say there is no substitute for the real thing.
"However, when it comes to being better skilled to work safely and efficiently in a mine, immersive virtual reality technology may prove a powerful training tool."
Simtars has been providing mine induction and safety and health training courses for more than 15 years. New training courses based on immersive virtual reality are currently under development.

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