Paul Moore caught up with Tony Pretorius – Education , Training and Development Executive , Murray & Roberts Cementation on the latest technologies it is using to train operators
Q How would you describe M & R Cementation ' s overall strategy when it comes to operator training - are simulators just one part of the mix ? A With our blended learning strategy at Murray & Roberts Cementation Training Academy ( MRTA ), we apply an extended reality approach to the methodology of training operators , engineering support services and supervisors . This includes machine-specific electronic learning , as well as using virtual reality ( VR ) to familiarise operators with components and their performance . In the simulator space , we use this technology to develop proficiency in three primary areas : health and safety , machine appreciation and productivity enhancement . After this phase , learners are exposed to a series of videos where they can relate to how the various machines work in the actual workplace before being introduced to the workshops at our Engineering Mechanised Training Centre where they focus on machine cleaning and first-level servicing , under the supervision of qualified artisans . Our mock-up environment is their next port of call , where they apply the theory and skills learnt , to prove their capability in machine operation . They are then in a position to enter the workplace and gain experience in the production environment , where their competence will be evaluated and certified by a qualified assessor .
Q Has your use of simulators increased in recent years as machines have become more complex but also as simulators themselves have become more advanced , allowing trainees to be trained in many different potential underground scenarios ? A We are in the process of upgrading one of our CYBERMINE 3 simulator units to a CYBERMINE 5 unit model . This will allow for more advanced simulation cabs to run off the unit . The upgrade is to replace the computers , the UPS , the projection system and the lighting system whilst rewiring the container for HDMI and ethernet amongst other additional components . The system will also receive a full maintenance service including the motion platform , which will also receive a firmware upgrade . We recently reached an agreement with a mining company to loan an Epiroc M2C unit that will run off the upgraded simulator . This initiative will offer us the ability to train operators on the Epiroc Rig Control System which makes full automation easier and more productive than ever before . MRTA also invested in a portable VR Drill Rig Simulator with the aim to provide remote rig operator training solutions at our projects . Simulators are valuable tools for training in setting up equipment and tramming operations , while VR headsets take this experience to the next level by giving the learner more immersive and realistic insight into actual operation .
Q While the focus is on safety , do they also help to lock in good operator habits as well as avoid interruptions of the " real " operations for training ? A As most trackless equipment has only single seating , it is not possible to conduct on-board training in the real unit . This means simulators have a particularly valuable role in preparing learners for underground mining . In a simulator , they can be coached by experienced operators in a safe , cost effective and low risk environment , making it much easier for trainers to identify areas of concern and ‘ engineer out ’ any bad habits the learner might display . Instructors are able to respond immediately as learning takes place , reinforcing the required techniques and behaviours for safe production .
Q Do you operate a mix of simulator types to allow training for a range of machine types and brands ? A Murray & Roberts Cementation Training Academy has four simulators – each covering a key equipment category . For the training of loading , hauling and dumping operations , our simulator is based on the Sandvik LH514 / 517 LHDs , and for dump operations we simulate the Sandvik TH540 dump truck . Drilling training is conducted using a simulator based on the Sandvik DD321 drill rig , and bolting training uses a Sandvik DD311 bolter simulator .
Q Is the training focus moving beyond mainly drill , load and haul machines to other utility type machines ? A Training in the operation of utility machines can be effectively conducted in our mock-up facility , as the requirements are fairly basic and can be based on skills learnt for a normal driver ’ s licence . We therefore focus our simulation and VR focus on more sophisticated and specialised equipment at this stage .
Q Are you also using other VR and AR type technology aside from sims such as headsets and virtual reality “ walls ”? A Our progress in including VR technology in our training is quite advanced , with a series of VR modules for mechanised supervisors , operators and engineering support services . Our resources include 2D and 3D interactive touchscreens which are deployed , for instance , in supervisor training on areas such as strata control programmes on our sites , ventilation and gases , cycle planning for shift bosses and emergency response planning . These concepts are also brought into the VR immersive environment , with modules on Entry Examination and Safe Declaration , advanced survey and marking of the blast face . We also use VR to familiarise supervisors with basic engineering aspects of mechanised equipment . For operators , we use VR applications to teach them to identify components from the various suites of equipment . In the engineering space , we deploy split circuits for various schematics such as drilling , drivetrain , steering and brakes . This allows us to ‘ hide ’ the machine to expose the circuit , and even start up the system to observe hydraulic flow . This enhances the training of apprentices in fault diagnosis and trouble-shooting . For some time , we have employed a 2D and 3D VR blast wall application to teach miners to mark off rounds , using either conventional methods or laser technology . It also allows learner miners to time the round according to their blast design , understanding the importance of sequential firing .
“ This gives even remote mining sites the chance to enhance skill levels , productivity and safety ,” he says . He points to the ongoing difficulty that companies face in conducting group activities under COVID-19 protocols , and particularly in moving personnel across borders .
In addition to these regulatory restraints , this new training infrastructure could also reduce the cost of having staff attend off-site training for extended periods – where costs are raised by travel and accommodation .
“ We believe that our state-of-the-art educational innovations can give remote mines unprecedented access to valuable skills transfer with real bottom-line benefits to be gained ,” he says .
Looking beyond mining operations themselves , Pretorius also highlights plans to reach out to communities needing skills development to combat unemployment . This socially responsible approach to training is already embraced at the MRTA facilities , but could in future be more widely available through this injection of technology .
The academy ’ s new age of training systems will also be rolled out within the projects of Murray & Roberts Cementation itself , further
International Mining | NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021