Improving the health and safety of staff is a big driver behind the mining industry’s move towards automation and IoT, new research has found.

Global mobile satellite company Inmarsat said that automation and wearable technology are expected to play a significant role in addressing potential health risks and safety threats in the mining industry.

Inmarsat’s ‘The Future of IoT in Enterprise – 2017’ report found that, despite low current levels of IoT deployment in the mining industry, 40 per cent of organisations have plans to deploy IoT solutions within the next 18 months.

Health and safety emerged as the area in which mining respondents expect to see the most benefits from these deployments, with almost half (44 per cent) expecting IoT to drive improvements to the health and safety of staff.

Improving health and safety also emerged as a key driver for IoT deployment, with 43 per cent ranking it as a primary objective for their IoT strategy, just behind monitoring environmental changes (47 per cent) and improving cost effectiveness (44 per cent).

Joe Carr, director of mining at Inmarsat Enterprise, said: “Mines are a uniquely specialised, hazardous environment and as such miners are highly focused on employee safety.

“IoT solutions can play a significant role by remotely monitoring conditions and gathering data to anticipate and react to potential safety threats.”

“Automation and connected wearable technology represent two of the single best opportunities to address the dangers of the mining environment.

“IoT technology provides the digital nerve system for a network of automated devices and sensors that adjust to environmental conditions in real-time, meaning that equipment can react to potentially hazardous physical changes onsite rapidly without the need for human intervention, removing staff from potentially dangerous environments.”

The report also found that there are significant benefits to be gained in wearable technology for ensuring staff health and safety.

Wearable sensors can monitor and analyse a wide range of parameters, including sensing for dangerous gases or impact, raising the alarm if staff tracking is outside of acceptable parameters and monitoring worker locations to ensure they don’t enter hazardous areas of the site accidentally.

Carr concluded: “Using IoT to reduce fatalities and improve health and safety is only going to be possible if the connectivity provided by satellite technologies to move and analyse data is in place.

“The big challenge for mines is that they are often situated in some of the most remote parts of the world, away from cellular and terrestrial networks in an ever-changing environment."