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Awards for Innovation in Mine Safety Technology Announced in Las Vegas
The U.S. National Institute on Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) has announced the recipients of the first-ever Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards. The awards, presented in Las Vegas, recognized "mines and companies who have made an extraordinary effort, above and beyond mandatory requirements, to apply technology in ways that will improve mine worker safety and health," according to the NIOSH website.
Among this year's recipients was Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, the world's largest publicly traded copper and molybdenum producer. Freeport-McMoRan earned the award for its adoption of an over-the-road fatigue monitoring system for use in mine haul trucks.
The fatigue monitoring system, called Driver State Sensor, uses state of the art eye-tracking technology to detect operator drowsiness and distraction.
"The system uses a fully automatic, console-mounted camera that tracks driver eye and eyelid behavior to determine the onset of fatigue the instant it occurs," said Freeport-McMoRan. "In the event of fatigue, in-cab audio and seat vibration alarms immediately sound to alert the driver, and site dispatchers are notified in real-time."
Freeport-McMoRan enjoys one of the industry's lowest Total Recordable Incident Rates (TRIR), which takes into account work-site fatalities, lost time incidents, restricted duty incidents, occupation illness incidents, and medical treatment. In 2011, the average TRIR in mines across the United States was nearly four times higher than Freeport-McMoRan's.
NIOSH also recognized Lockheed Martin for its MagneLink through-the-earth emergency communications system. MagneLink transmits magnetic waves through rock, coal and metal to allow two-way voice and text communication between miners deep underground and rescuers on the surface.
Lockheed Martin specifically designed MagneLink to address requirements for post-accident emergency communications set forth in the MINER Act of 2006, created in the wake of the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia that claimed the lives of twelve miners.
The communication system, the only wireless through-the-earth communications system for coal mines approved by the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration, has successfully demonstrated the ability to transmit two-way voice communications to a depth of 1,550 feet and two-way text communications in excess of 1,550 feet.
"Lockheed Martin has a proud 100-year tradition of finding innovative solutions to address our customers' most difficult changes," said Richard Holmberg, Lockheed Martin's vice president of mission and unmanned systems.
"We thank the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for this award, and look forward to MagneLink improving miner safety for years to come," he added.
The third and final recipient of the award was CONSOL Energy, which shared the award with Lockheed Martin for allowing the MagneLink system to be tested in one of its mines.
"Each [of these companies has] taken actions to employ technology in ways that will significantly improve mineworker safety and health," said Dr. Jeffrey Kohler, director of NIOSH's Office of Mine Safety and Health Research. "It is an honor for the NIOSH Office of Mine Safety and Health to highlight the industry's commitment to innovate 'above and beyond.'"
The 2012 awards only addressed technological innovations in the coal and metal/nonmetal industries. For future awards, the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research will partner with the Industrial Minerals Association-North America and the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association to recognize similar innovation in those sectors.
Image credit: Michael Coghlan, Flickr