Mining giant Rio Tinto has revealed in its annual report that it has increased its use of drones and other technologies to work safer and smarter amid the coronavirus rules.
The company increased its use of drones and mine pit cameras to allow inspections to go on without interruption from anywhere in the world.
For inspections that resulted in something needing to be fixed, the company invested in smart glasses that allow highly skilled engineers to work with local teams from anywhere in the world.
We increased our use of drones and mine pit cameras and introduced video headsets, so we could continue to conduct visual inspections of tailings facilities and equipment while complying with travel restrictions and physical distancing requirements.
Rio Tinto also worked with data analyst specialists that used AI to churn through data and come back with emerging COVID-19 risks across the workforce, allowing it to anticipate something happening better. This includes the creation of COVID-19 antibody testing at domestic airports for fly-in and fly-out workers.
We also continued to innovate as part of our broader health and safety program: for example, our Weipa bauxite team in Queensland, Australia, designed a custom-made mechanical arm to open and close tailings valves, reducing the risk of injuries.
Drones and mining
A few years ago, BHP, another mining giant, announced in a release that it has been able to save $5 million per year by switching to drone technology.
BHP uses drones at its Queensland coal mines to inspect blasting holes and capture the fumes. It also uses drones to inspect cranes and towers at its Olympic Dam operations in South Australia. BHP has also trialed inspection drones on its ocean freighters, giving operators various data points from a single mission and improving safety.
Drones provide workers with safer working environments. BHP will no longer require humans to set out the inspections or fly aircraft within visible range of the equipment needing an inspection. Rashpal Bhatti, BHP’s vice president of marketing, states that drones can cut inspection times by 75%, making inspections on its freighter ships in only 15 minutes.
Photo: Rio Tinto