Tait Improves Safety and Efficiency in Australian Mine
In dangerous working environments, safety is not only a priority — it’s a requirement. Workers in hazardous areas need reliable and resilient communications to ensure they remain safe. A newly implemented Tait DMR Tier 3 network is connecting a mobile workforce in one of Australia’s toughest mines, improving coverage, safety and operational efficiency.
The Client: ConsMin Woodie Woodie Mine
ConsMin Australia’s Woodie Woodie mine operation is a high-grade producer of manganese ore. The Woodie Woodie mine is a 24-hour, seven-day operation and runs with a crew of 400 on-site at any time.
The harsh environment of Western Australia’s Pilbara region tests all equipment, from massive dump trucks and fixed facilities like wash plants to lighting rigs, small-scale electronics and even clothing and footwear. In the Pilbara, they say that if you really want to test how long it takes to break something, send it to Woodie Woodie, ConsMin’s operation 400km southeast of Port Hedland.
The Woodie Woodie mine was operating on a dated analogue radio set-up that did not cover the entire mining site. Erle Metcalf, the Principal ICT of ConsMin, says a Tait digital radio network was chosen when it was decided to replace the mine’s aged analogue radio set-up.
“It is an odd-shaped site and under the old analogue radio system we had lots of black spots,” Erle says. “We also had concerns because there was no single channel across the entire site. It meant issues when moving with getting authorization to enter an area, and we had potentially serious delays in the event of emergencies because our response team was on a separate channel.”
Full Coverage and Enhanced Safety Features with a Tait Digital Radio Solution
To provide the Woodie Woodie mine with full coverage across the entire site, a Tait DMR Tier 3 system was implemented.
It also meant that Woodie Woodie could get started with buying radios that were DMR-capable and continue to use that equipment when the digital network was rolled out.
“With our new Tait Tier 3 system, our supervisors can monitor their areas from anywhere on site, and in the event of an emergency, we are assured of still being OK, with full coverage across the entire site.”
– Erle Metcalf, Principal ICT of ConsMin
Jonathan Collyer-Petale, the ICT Project Coordinator who delivered the project, says “The over-the-air programming (OTAP) ability of Tait EnableFleet is another significant benefit, in the speed at which we can deliver things like new channel groups and GeoFencing updates.”
Woodie Woodie sits in a high-lightning strike zone, a serious hazard where explosive charges are used to assist with the mining operation. Tait Unified Vehicle integrates the mine’s third-party lightning-alert service into the DMR network to auto-trigger alarms on radios and helps ensure blast and other vulnerable areas are clear well ahead of strikes.
Another safety improvement enabled by the upgrade is the use of GeoFencing to automatically switch a terminal from one channel to another as the user crosses from one zone to another.
“Those enhancements – the lightning alerts and GeoFencing – are two of eight feature enhancements that we have planned as a result of moving across to Tait DMR,” Erle says. “The change has also enabled us to review and often simplify our emergency planning and safety procedures because many of them were based on the limitations of the old system, which needed quite complicated workarounds.”
The Project had No Option but Success
Erle says that the Woodie Woodie mine has twice started investments in radio upgrades, but the roll-outs were not successful, in one case because the gear was simply not up to the unforgiving environment.
“Because of those past failures, the cut-over in December was significant – the project had no other option but success,” Erle says. “We deliberately set out to ensure the terminals mimicked as closely as possible the way the analogue system was organised and the new Tait DMR system allowed us to get pretty close.”
“That meant there wasn’t a lot of retraining needed and on Deployment Day all we did was a short session for each crew as they came on shift explaining optimal use of the microphone and reminding people that you have to wait to hear the ‘beep’ before starting to talk.”
“Technically the change was pretty well seamless and the uptake was phenomenal – people very quickly became used to it.”
ConsMin has been using Tait equipment since 2008. As well as DMR, the company considered the TETRA and P25 mobile radio standards for the Woodie Woodie Mine upgrade
A six-site layout, with five sites on transportable skids (meaning they can be lifted with a heavy forklift and shifted by a flatbed truck, but not be towed). Four sites each have three repeaters, while the main tower and one transportable each have five repeaters
The terminal fleet is made of 175 TP9300 portable radios and 190 TM9300 mobile radios, of which 40 are used as fixed base stations
The skid sites are self-contained, with solar collectors serving battery banks capable of powering their site for up to six days