The first defense against falling drill sets

Underground Testing at Fosterville Gold Mine: Drill sets are necessary to the underground mining process, but are a potential hazard.

Faced with a longstanding danger in underground mining operations, the development of SecuritySpear protects workers and prevents accidental incursion of drill sets into job sites.

Since the beginning of underground mining, the danger of falling drill rods has been present.

These drill sets are necessary for the underground mining process, but when left abandoned in blast holes, they pose constant risks to operators and equipment in the space above which they find themselves.

Due to their construction, drill assemblies have the ability to fall following a potential unforeseen failure of the system, resulting in a high-velocity, high-weight object dropping and impacting an area potentially populated by workers.

This potential danger is what prompted the director of RattleJack Innovations Leigh Sutton to begin the process of developing and manufacturing the SafetySpear.

“We developed the SafetySpear because of the lack of controls in place for this type of crash,” Sutton said. Work safely.

“There are many mines we visit who do not realize that falling drill assemblies are such a problem and, in return, we are able to tell them that we can safely and effectively eliminate this hazard.

“Traditional methods like a ground support system and cement to block boreholes have been used for years, but they are not suitable to prevent the accident, so they are only used because it does not there was no alternative before.

“The beauty of SafetySpear is that it is designed for the high impact loads of drill assemblies, unlike concrete and the support system, which are designed for progressive loading.

“It’s a pretty tough problem to solve, but we’ve found a reliable, easy-to-use solution to stop this incredibly sharp, high-energy impact.”

The SafetySpear acts as an answer to a problem that has existed since the beginning of mechanical mining. Inserted into holes drilled by drills, the SafetySpear is able to catch the falling drill set and quickly slow its descent, before stopping the drill set and locking it in place.

“The SafetySpear will set a new benchmark for upstream drilling risk management in our industry,” said Ion Hann (left), Vice President Agnico Eagle Mines, Fosterville Gold Mine, Victoria.

Engineered from high impact plastic and polyurethane, the SafetySpear is a rugged yet lightweight to handle solution that is effective at stopping heavy loads, while being easy to transport and install.

“The SafetySpear is made up of two components, both made of different plastics and with different functions, to work together to stop drill sets,” Sutton said.

“The impact-resistant plastic is the trigger mechanism and the polyurethane works with a braking effect, in that it slows the descent of the drill assembly, containing it in the blasthole.

“We have moved away from traditional measures, in that everything must be made from durable metals, because the high density steel has not been able to do what we expect from SafetySpear to prevent an accident.

“The benefits exist outside of SafetySpear’s effectiveness in preventing incursion of drill sets, in that they are also lightweight as they are plastic and durable as they do not corrode.”

Falling drill sets are a low-probability, high-consequence event: it is not common, but the potential hazard is ever-present and represents a life-threatening situation for workers in the region.

RattleJack Innovations Director Leigh Sutton in front of the surface test rig.

Due to the composition of SafetySpear, it can be easily installed and operators can be confident that it will still protect their safety years later.

“The SafetySpear’s advanced materials ensure that it can tolerate hot or cold environments and rust will not affect its functionality,” Sutton said.

“It can withstand those harsh punishments and still perform as well as the day it was installed.”

Additionally, RattleJack Innovations emphasizes user-friendliness when it comes to the SafetySpear, designing it to be quick and easy to install.

“We use the existing machines that drill these holes to then install the SafetySpear, so no additional machinery is needed to get the lifesaving protection,” Sutton said.

“The SafetySpear takes approximately two and a half minutes to install, which is incredible compared to the installation and drying times of previous solutions and incredibly more efficient than the process of retrieving a potentially lost drill set.

“We have experience at these sites and with these operations, so we designed the SafetySpear with those experiences in mind.

“By making the security measure quick and effective, it becomes a more attractive solution for companies, which then guarantee the safety of their workers.”

Requiring only one machine to install, the SafetySpear saves time and money by allowing operators to continue their workflow after device installation, reducing operational costs and avoiding unnecessary downtime.

Promoting safer and more efficient underground mining operations, the SafetySpear has been nominated in the Excellence in Mine Safety, OH&S and Innovation Mining Solution categories of the Australian Mining Prospect Awards.

Illustrating innovation by creating a safety solution that did not exist before, the SafetySpear has been used at Victoria’s Fosterville Gold Mine and WA’s Byrnecut Mining Australia operations, where the ‘catch , control to stop” has been successful in a variety of trials and practical applications.

“Every mine we go to has a history of an incident or error in managing safety around the drill sets,” Sutton said.

“With the SafetySpear, we aim to provide an effective solution that eliminates these risks and integrates into the workflow to avoid cases where the wrong blasthole is covered.

“We’ve done the tough jobs with our extensive Australia-wide combat testing and had the feedback from the operations that have tested the SafetySpear to know it works and works well. You could be working under a blast hole and the SafetySpear engages to stop a falling assembly and you wouldn’t know it, the sound is muffled due to design.

“And it works for us – knowing that we can keep people safe at work and bring them home to their families is what we set out to achieve and that’s what the SafetySpear succeeds in achieving.”

The SafetySpear is one of a kind, managing to be lightweight, durable and effective in filling a gap in mining safety.

“The high-impact safety system is capable of protecting miners underground, and although they won’t hear the danger of falling coming their way or the SafetySpear stopping that danger in its tracks, it will have quietly done its job to save someone’s life.” Suton said.

“Accidents leave a trail behind them in the end. Good security systems do not.

Bonny J. Streater