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Artificial intelligence is being used to fix a problem in five minutes that would’ve otherwise taken hours at one of Anglo-American’s Queensland mines.

The team at Anglo’s Dawson Mine was searching for something that would stop clips from failing or breaking on their 27-kilometre-long cable conveyor that transports raw metallurgical coal across the mine.

When the clips fail, the belt bunches up causing a “concertina” that can take hours to fix.

But, the team failed to find anything that would solve their time-consuming problem.

Determined to fix it, the Dawson Mine coal handling and preparation plant wrote its own code to solve the problem.

Dawson CHPP engineering coordinator Matthew Downing said they first came up with the idea of using a camera to take photos at specific intervals and trialled different cameras while the belt ran at full speed.

And the idea just went from there.

“Since implementing this technology, we haven’t missed a failing clip and the issue of belt dislodgements has been eliminated.

“The time for a technician to review clips for each cable belt has been reduced to five minutes – and can be done remotely.

“Clip failure caused significant damage, released large amounts of energy and would take days to repair – not to mention lost product in the process,

“During repairs teams could be exposed to hazardous work environment and high-risk manual handling tasks.”

He said technicians would have to stand in the sun and dust to fix the clips and the conveyor. They were also exposed to loud noise and vibration and sometimes it could take up to six hours for one full belt rotation to check it was good to go again.

“We also wanted to improve the reliability of the cable belts,” said Matthew.

QATCF 28 Matthew 2

The team hasn’t stopped innovating and was looking to set the system up to enable the technology to identify failed clips with the belt running at full speed and then automatically shut down with the failed clip at the belt repair location.

While they continued to innovate the technology, Matthew and the Dawson team were recognised by their peers for what they had created.

The Dawson team won the People’s Choice Award at the 2023 Innovation and Health Awards at last month’s Annual Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference.

Anglo American Australia CEO Daniel van der Westhuizen said adapting technology in this way had provided an innovative solution to a costly challenge.

“Taking technology to the next level by adapting artificial intelligence, Matt and the CHPP team developed an innovative solution to a significant and costly challenge for our business in avoiding chip failure along a conveyor when transporting raw coal,

“Congratulations to Matt and the Dawson team, for their work in developing an important safety and efficiency solution that not only saves significant people hours, but removes individuals from exposure, and can be simply replicated to other conveyors attached to coal handling and processing plants.”

That wasn’t the only award for Anglo American. The mine was also recognised for its trauma-informed psychosocial hazard management approach to bullying, sexual harassment and domestic violence with pathways put in place so people can come forward without fear of reprisal.

Anglo American workplace support manager Kanae Dyas received highly commended in the Health Program Award for the company’s trauma-informed psychosocial hazard management approach.

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