Engineering principles for the design of a personnel transportation system

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 12
  • SDG 8
  • Abstract:

    This article describes the re-engineering principles applied in the design of a personnel transportation system for the Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine in the Rustenburg area of South Africa. It incorporates conveyor belt travelling, chairlift operation, and also includes consideration of proposed changes/modifications to the existing conveyor belt infrastructure. The purpose of the project was to identify, through a process of evaluation, the appropriate option and/or combination of transportation options that would be safe in terms of personnel transportation as well as cost-effective. Alternative measures for transporting personnel (not using belt riding) would have a significant positive spin-off, increasing the availability of the belt and thereby increasing production. This paper explores the feasibility of interventions that would improve safety through eliminating risk associated with personnel transportation as well as contributing towards improving the mine's position on the cost curve. The design in consideration at the Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine consists of two shaft systems, namely the North Shaft and South Shaft, each comprising twin decline shafts. One of the decline shafts is equipped with a conveyor belt for rock and personnel transportation, and the other with a winder for trackbound material transport. The conveyor belt has been used for personnel transportation since the commissioning of the shafts. The conveyor belt is equipped with platforms for personnel getting off and on the belt and a number of safety devices designed to ensure safety while travelling on the belt. Intensive training in the practical aspects of belt riding is given to every person, and unsupervised riding on the belt is permitted only once belt riding competence is demonstrated. Despite this, the safety results were poor, with 106 injuries between 2006 and May 2013. Fortunately, no fatalities were reported during this period. An investigation of alternative means for personnel transportation or engineered solutions to the current conveyor belt infrastructure in the safest, most effective, and most economical way was therefore needed. There was a major risk of safety-related stoppages being imposed following another belt accident/incident. This would prevent the mine from transporting personnel underground by belt and result in major production losses. From the commis-sioning of the Phase 2 shaft deepening project on both shafts, dedicated chairlifts have been used for personnel transportation as opposed to the conveyor belt installed in the Phase 1 area. The chairlifts have been in operation since 2004 and no chairlift-related incidents have been recorded thus far. According to safety statistics, it is clear that the chairlift is the safer method for the transportation of people in the shaft. To fulfil the objectives/scope of this study, it was recommended that both primary (new chairlift decline with infrastructure) and secondary options (modifications to the current conveyor belt infrastructure) be considered for implementation on both the North Shaft and South Shaft to reduce or eliminate accidents/incidents as a result of belt transportation. The associated capital expenditure would be approximately R200 million. Considering the future impact on the business as a whole, this would definitely be capital well spent.