Landslides and Mines: A Constant Threat

  • Apr 13, 2018

landslides and mines

Mines around the world face many different threats. Competitors, rebels, and resources are just a few that vary by location. One threat that is present at every mine is severe weather.

No matter where you operate, severe weather conditions like rain, lightning, and wind pose a threat to operational continuity and worker safety. Worker safety should be a top priority for all mining operations. Unfortunately, some of the deadliest accidents at mines are due to the weather, especially rain.

Landslides and Mines

While lightning strikes can injure outdoor workers and wind gusts can knock over heavy equipment, it’s rain that presents widespread problems for mining operations. Heavy rains and floods are so dangerous because they compromise the structure of mines as well as the surrounding environment. When hills become inundated with water, they are more susceptible to landslides.

In fact, slope saturation by water is the primary cause of landslides and mines have a hard time predicting them. Landslides can also be triggered by snowmelt, changes in ground-water levels, and water level changes along coastline and rivers.

Recent Mine Collapses

One of the deadliest mining accidents that can occur is a mine collapse due to a landslide. These incidents are extremely dangerous because there are many people down in a mine at once. Collapses can occur quickly if conditions are right. They are also extremely hard to plan for if your mine isn’t using weather data to its advantage.

Unfortunately, mine collapses are a common emergency around the world.

Once such mining incident occurred back in August of 2013 at Ndassima, Central African Republic. Weeks of rain had turned the gold mine here into a “muddy swamp.” A landslide occurred, trapping dozens of workers several meters under the ground. Emergency workers were able to rescue 10 people from the muddy scene. 37 people died as a result of this weather-related accident. President Michel Djotoida declared three days of morning to honor the victims lost.

Another incident occurred in April of 2011. Only this time, civilians in the area lost their lives rather than mine employees. 24 people died as mining activities in the water-saturated region cause landslides. 13 others were injured during this event. These types of events continue to happen in the Philipines. In July 2015 a coal mining pit collapsed after days of rains. This landslide killed nine workers at the Panian pit on Semirara Island.

These types of collapses are also prevalent in South America. In 2017, a similar mine collapse in Patagonia, Chile, killed two workers. Heavy rains caused a flash flood at the Canadian-owned mine in Chile’s southern Aysen region. This event prompted a very serious response from Aurora Williams, Minister of Mining. She said that Mandalay Resources Company was responsible for having the necessary resources to lead rescue effort. “Mining companies must guarantee the safety of all their workers,” she said.

Ending the Cycle

We agree that mining companies should be responsible for miner rescues, but we also encourage mining companies to be proactive and stop these weather-related incidents from occurring in the first place.

This is no easy task, but we’re trying to make it easier with advanced early warning systems and safety measures to keep miners safe. By monitoring the weather and knowing when storms with high rainfall totals are going to happen, we help mines and other organizations around the globe enhance worker safety. Our hope is that with new technology and tools, we’ll be able to decrease the number of weather-related mining accidents. One of these tools we’ve developed is called Sferic Maps. This weather visualization tool allows mine decision-makers to see weather-data in real time. You can give it a try for free today using the link below.

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Using tools like this one will help mines recruit workers, increase operational efficiency, and adhere to safety guidelines like the ones Aurora Williams talked about in Chile. If you are a decision-maker at a mine, please let us know how you handle severe weather safety in the comments below. Landslides and mines don’t mix – how do you keep workers safe?