Because of the inherent dangers of mining, safety training is important. In the mining industry, virtual and augmented reality is being used to replace outdated and ineffective training with more effective immersive experiences.
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Challenges of Training Within the Mining Industry
Risk of Accidents
During on-the-job training, new workers learn to use new equipment, tools, and machinery. Because they lack the basic training and expertise to operate specific machinery, this raises the likelihood of an accident.
Most mining companies expect their employees, particularly new hires, to contribute to their daily tasks and speed through the training process as quickly as possible. New miners are left in confusion and uncertainty because they lack a firm foundation.
Training is an expensive endeavor due to the costs of equipment, facilitation, employee time and venue rental. Training expenditures are typically limited, but training requirements are always high.
Lack of Proper Trainers
Mining industries generally allocate their best workers as trainers to the new worker. However, most of the time, they do not prove to be the best trainers as they lack the necessary skills. Without skilled trainers, training can backfire, resulting in confusion among new workers, lost time, and ruined projects.
Traditional Training Methods
Classroom-Based Training Programs
A skilled facilitator often teaches classroom learning. Employees work in groups to go over presentation slides and exercises such as case study assessments and information about typical mining practices, safety, and mishaps.
On-the-job training is a type of training that takes place on the worksite. New workers are alongside more experienced workers under normal working conditions. By completing assignments under supervision, they receive practical experience. Employees become more effective and productive as a result of the feedback they receive.
Aside from self-assessment, there is no option for evaluation or feedback in on-the-job training. Those aware of mining operations but lack experience in completing a task can benefit from on-the-job experience.
How Virtual and Augmented Reality is Changing the Face of Training within Mining?
Virtual Reality (VR)
A computer-generated simulation is referred to as virtual reality. It is an artificial simulation of a real-world situation. Users are completely absorbed in the virtual environment. They have the sensation of being immersed in reality.
Augmented Reality (AR)
In augmented reality, 3D visuals are superimposed on top of real-world scenes. By superimposing digital content over real-world work surroundings, industrial augmented reality enables the creation and delivery of easily consumable job instructions. To combine the digital and physical worlds, augmented reality programs are created which can be used with the help of mobile phones.
Implementation of Virtual and Augmented Reality in Training
Virtual reality in mining allows the training of mining workers, operators, and managers in a virtual mine, making the entire mining process safer and more efficient. Teams can practice their skills in virtual reality before working in real-world mining environments.
Trainers may also train miners worldwide without having to travel by mixing step-by-step instructions with holograph pictures, which would provide a more immersive and engaging learning environment.
New employees can investigate every aspect of the site and even interact with the various virtual items surrounding them, resulting in increased learning retention and improved performance.
Custom mine built-in virtual settings are utilized for emergency planning, accident reconstruction, and worker safety training.
VR is also being used in the mining industry for scenario-based training. A virtual copy of the mine is created using large-screen projection systems. Different pieces of training can be created where learners can explore a mine by curriculum questions.
AR can enhance situational awareness, improve new worker training, and assist in imagining real-world situations. When training new drillers, AR can provide them with a visual representation of the drilling process. AR may also be used to track the location and orientation of mining equipment on rock surfaces in real-time.
Advantages of Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual and augmented reality teaching involves safety considerations and allows trainees to learn through virtual experience. A corporation can also use this tool to demonstrate the ramifications of not adhering to standard operating procedures.
As a result of immersive training, new workers can absorb training materials more efficiently since they are immersed in totally engaged and focused scenarios. This makes it easier to remember lessons and gives new workers a chance to put what they have learned into practice.
Challenges of Virtual and Augmented Reality
Professional AR headsets are expensive, bulky hardware that may be out of reach of the general public. Additionally, some augmented reality headsets require tethering to a computer through wires, making the entire experience inconvenient.
While augmented reality is a hot topic of conversation among technology specialists, the general public is unaware of the technology's benefits. A lack of information may cause users to have concerns about their privacy and security when interacting with augmented reality technology.
Physical Safety Risks
Applications based on augmented reality can be quite distracting. When applied in potentially risky areas such as the mining sector, augmented reality applications can result in accidents.
One issue with VR headsets is that they may produce nausea, headaches, and illness. VR equipment can create eye difficulties as a result of continuous exposure.
Recent Developments in Virtual and Augmented Reality in Training
Vale has collaborated with NORCAT to develop a blended learning program for the worldwide mining industry. An immersive learning experience will incorporate virtual and augmented reality.
Pre-operational circular checks and virtual training exercises for mining equipment such as forklifts and utility vehicles will be conducted in VR as part of the program.
Multinational mining corporation Anglo American invested $90 million in training courses in 2019. The LEARN+ platform, which integrated AR and VR learning activities, was launched to help train employees to create a safe working environment.
Shantanu and the Tecknotrove team have devised a cost-effective solution for teaching and evaluating workers on safe excavation practices and on-site safety. Making the simulator portable and VR compatible will save the industry millions of dollars in training and operating costs.
The potential of virtual and augmented reality in mining is limitless. With even more developments in virtual and augmented technology, mining organizations will not only be able to design better strategies but will also be able to provide a safer working environment for everyone involved.
References and Further Readings
Casey, J. (2021). Tackling Coronavirus. [Online] Global Mining Review. Available at: https://www.globalminingreview.com/special-reports/18032021/the-future-of-mine-training-is-vr/ (Accessed on 25 April 2022).
Zhang, H. (2017). Head-mounted display-based intuitive virtual reality training system for the mining industry. International Journal of Mining Science and Technology, 27(4), 717-722. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmst.2017.05.005
Anglo American. (2019). Integrated Annual Report 2019. [Online]. Available at: https://www.angloamerican.com/~/media/Files/A/Anglo-American-Group/PLC/investors/annual-reporting/2020/aa-annual-report-2019.pdf/ (Accessed on 25 April 2022).
Peters, R. H. (2002). Strategies for improving miners' training (No. 9463). US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh, PA and Spokane, WA Research Laboratories. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/userfiles/works/pdfs/ic9463.pdf