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Estevan Mine improves safety with modern training simulators

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The local mine recently purchased two new machines that allow efficient training for different purposes.

ESTEVAN — Practicing and perfecting equipment handling skills without safety risks may seem like a dream, but Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC's Estevan Mine has found a way to make it possible.

The local mine recently purchased two new machines that allow for efficient training for a variety of purposes, including responding to emergency situations, operating equipment more safely and efficiently, and conducting routine pre-shift inspections.

One of them is a simulator, an immersive technology that was installed in October and upgraded earlier this year. To do this, the producer studied the Estevan mine and incorporated the mine facility and even the surrounding landscape into the simulation. Since then, about 40 operators have had the opportunity to practice on the new piece of equipment.

“They incorporated our special mine into a simulation. [As part of the simulation you can] drive a Cat 777-G end dump, you drive out of the shop and go all the way down to our pit 10, then to our shand warehouse, and then we have a pit 12 and a pit 18 [and so on]”, said Tija Donovan, safety specialist at Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC's Estevan Mine.

Different scenarios help train machine operators to respond correctly to various problems with the trucks and emergencies – from the entire mine to individual machines – and to better understand safety protocols. Productivity and machine maintenance are also improved. Experiences in working at night, in rain and in snow are even possible.

The simulator also helps new employees to become familiar with the mining landscape more quickly.

It is an operator's seat with a steering wheel and control system that mirrors the actual equipment used in the respective mine. It mimics every movement an operator would experience, while the projectors on three walls around the seat recreate the mine setup.

“The operators say it’s very realistic,” Donovan said.

The project had been in the works for some time, she noted. Other mines in Westmoreland had experience with the equipment that proved successful, so Estevan followed their lead and purchased transporter and loader packages that included software and equipment that simulated the cab of the real machine.

They started with transporters and will later move on to loaders. The mine has an extensive on-site training program and the simulator will complement it with experience of different scenarios.

“In total, it takes about eight hours in the simulator to go through all the different scenarios,” Donovan said, noting that they try to train one or two people a week.

The system also makes it possible to view the simulation afterwards and go through mistakes with the trainer.

The other recently purchased training device is a touchscreen TV with software that allows operators to practice the pre-shift inspection routine. Operators can select the equipment they are working on and go through it piece by piece, learning more each day about what to look for when inspecting their equipment, Donovan said.

She found that the feedback on her new simulators was good.

“A lot of people are learning a lot, especially during the pre-shift inspection,” Donovan said. “And the response has been really good.”