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Virtual Reality Could Revolutionize the Mining Industry

By Karin Dilge | Fri, 06/10/2022 - 17:42

Many industries already use Virtual Reality (VR) technology to make their operations more efficient and safer. The mining industry is known to be one of the most dangerous professions, enveloped by hazardous conditions, so the need for improved security and training is significant. Applying VR technology is proving to help mitigate accidents, providing a new avenue to build a safer industry, experts agree.  

While accidental deaths dropped in 2019 to an all-time low, areas of opportunity remain in the mining sector. Mining remains one of the industries with the highest fatality rates, with a double-digit average of workers dying each year in Mexico. Because of this, there is a strong demand for VR in the industry, especially for solutions that can help train mining operators effectively to enhance safety, increase productivity and reduce costs.

“According to IMSS, the average cost of an industry-related accident is US$10,000. Accident rates in the mining sector are among the highest of all industries. Focusing on security and accident prevention is, therefore, important to reduce those costs,” said Luis Valenzuela, Director of the Project Management Office, Abacus IT, to MBN.

Virtual training allows managers and mine operators to work in a safer and more effective environment. Training through VR lets the teams practice their abilities prior to entering the mine. They can inspect every part of the site and even interact with the different surrounding virtual objects. Users have a greater learning retention and a better idea of how to operate as a result.

“Moving these procedures to a safe environment where people can make decisions and see the consequences of making a mistake without anything happening in real life is a brilliant benefit. It can also help companies to experiment with how to improve production safely,” said Rodrigo González, CEO, Minverso, to MBN.

Effective analysis, collaboration and discussions regarding key issues can be achieved through this visualization, eventually leading to well-informed decisions. In addition, “a truly interesting aspect of the metaverse is how it allows companies to effectively communicate what a project will look like, even enhancing its planning in the process. In the metaverse, companies can generate projects and visualize information that is easier to digest than reading a construction plan,” added González.

Mining operations are usually found at faraway places. VR enables the immersion of people into a virtual world that can accurately represent this mining environment. “You cannot light fires underground, you cannot have smoke coming at you and you cannot put people in high-pressure situations in real mines where they have to make decisions, but you can do that here,” said Steve Tonegato, State Operations Manager, Mines Rescue, to Mining Digital.

Mining companies in countries such as Australia, China, Canada and the US are starting to use VR as a tool to recreate the mining environment for evaluation and training purposes. For example, mines are recreated in virtual environments for accident reconstruction, emergency readiness preparation and safety trainings.

A study conducted by PwC showed that students using VR learn four times faster than in a conventional classroom. They also feel 245 percent more confident with the skills they acquired through VR and feel 3.75 times more emotionally connected with the content. Furthermore, people understand issues better when they are emotionally invested, a commonly noted benefit of VR environments, and are four times more focused than through e-learning. “Investment into new innovations such as augmented reality (AR) and VR technologies will help to insulate the mining industry from volatility and will also help to ensure future profitability,” said Roni Cerga, CEO, VR Vision, to BBN Times.

AR has also been increasingly used in mining environments. While VR is a computer-generated simulation, AR uses layers of computer-generated enhancements on top of the existing reality. This technology is helping the mining sector face major challenges by enabling distance support, allowing headquarter-based experts to remotely collaborate with site operators.  

“Virtual reality (VR) enables wonderful benefits, such as eliminating the necessity to be physically present for training. Today, training can be taken to a virtual level, which solves logistical problems and allows the work to take place in a fully controlled environment,” concluded González.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Tecknotrove, Fusion VR, Vsight, BBN Times, Mining Digital, Hindawi
Photo by:   pixabay
Karin Dilge Karin Dilge Journalist and Industry Analyst