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No Compromise On Safety

Mining is an industry that is inherently risky, which is why it is critical to put in place measures to protect workers against common threats, such as rockfalls.

Mining as an industry is inherently dangerous, posing a different set of dangers to most other jobs; hazards that are broadly similar, wherever mines are found around the world.

This could include an array of risks both above and below ground that can cause serious injury, disability or death. Essentially, it encompasses everything from dealing with harsh physical conditions to using heavy and dangerous equipment and machinery. And when it comes to safety, mines not only need to consider the safety of their own personnel, but also potential third parties who may be on-site.

Clearly then, employers have to be aware of the relevant health and safety legislation and have in place mining safety management frameworks as a way to ensure safer working conditions. This means controlling and managing danger through the implementation of recognised hazard controls, the use of effective personal protective equipment, safe working practices, and regular risk assessments.

It is in this specialised arena that M84 Geotech comes to the fore. As a geotechnical company focused on the supply and installation of rockfall protection and mitigation systems, and which is accredited for working at heights, the company works in high-risk areas and thus doesn’t compromise on safety.

According to Khomotso Moleke, CEO at M84 Geotech, mining is a dangerous environment and lives have been lost because of the risks miners are exposed to. M84 Geotech operates in surface mines, he says, where a key danger miners are exposed to is rockfall hazards; and if measures are not put in place to mitigate such risks, lives could be lost and equipment damaged. 

“As a company, our specialty is in supplying and installing physical safety protection and barriers to ensure that miners are protected against any rockfall hazards in open-pit operations. To this end, we draw on our experience and resources to help mitigate such risks in open-pit mines,” he says.

“Rockfall hazards are not only a risk to the miners, but also to the expensive equipment used to mine an opencast operation. We are proud of contributing to the safety of miners, by providing protective solutions for a zero-harm mining environment. Nothing should be taken for granted when it comes to the safety of the miners, and with the advanced technologies we have now and advanced solutions at our disposal, the death rate in the mining space should be minimised.”

Safety the priority

M84 Geotech is a rockfall protection and slope stabilisation specialist that uses systems such as drape mesh, pinned mesh, rockfall barriers, rock scaling, rock bolting, shotcrete and slope monitoring instruments installations. 

“All these systems are used to mitigate any rockfall hazards within the mining environment. The type of system we use will obviously depend on a particular risk that must be addressed.

“We can either use a passive system, such as the drape mesh or temporary netting, which is designed for controlled rockfall; or we can apply an active system such as a pinned mesh for slope stabilisation, where the mesh is fixed to the ground or slope for stability.”

Moleke says preventive measures such as slope monitoring instruments are installed on high walls to monitor any movement on the slope. The company can also clean the slope of any loose rocks or boulders that might be seen as a risk. 

Different operations will differ in terms of safety requirements, he notes, so a surface mining operation will differ from an underground mine. 

“For underground, there will be a lot of drilling, because the solution is focused on stabilising the roof and a more automated installation system can be used. With surface mining, more options are available to mitigate risk of rockfalls. 

“We can use protective or barrier systems, depending on the risk we are dealing with, and we can also stabilise the slope, monitor or rock scaling.”

Technology and R&D

He says the company also leverages various technologies to improve the overall safety on-site, such as its use of slope monitoring instruments, which play a preventative role for M84 Geotech teams. This technology keeps the team informed on what is happening on their slope and allows them to take necessary action to prevent rockfall risks. 

Drones are also used in the opencast operations to do assessment of the pit to identify any rockfall hazards. Based on the assessment, the right solution will be implemented to mitigate the risk. So technology and physical safety measures all have a role to play in keeping mines safe from possible harm.

“It must also be remembered that safety is never static. This means that we need to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies, through ongoing research and development, which is conducted to continuously improve both the methods and the equipment we use.

“We mostly use Geobrugg systems for slope stabilisation, rockfall protection and rockfall barriers. Geobrugg is a world-leading manufacturer of rockfall protection solutions, and has been developing these kind of systems since 1951,” he says.

Moleke says M84 Geotech conducts a lot of research working with specialists all over the world to assist in the development of protection solutions, with most of the mines the company works with preferring Geobrugg systems.

Training and skills development

Asked whether any training or skills are required by the miners using these safety measures, he says while M84 Geotech doesn’t necessarily provide training to the miners, as a contractor the company does ensure that its technicians are properly skilled up.

“They need to fully understand the systems we use for effective and efficient installation, and our teams work hand in hand with our clients on-site to give them a solution that meets their specific needs.

“The work we do is high-risk, and our technicians are exposed to the same risks they are employed to protect against. So it’s very important that they are trained in the installations of the systems, and informed about the risks they are dealing with. 

“We also attend training run by the manufacturer in order to remain up to date with the new technologies and systems they introduce.”

Almost all the solutions provided are done while suspended on ropes, Moleke says, because the work is generally done on a mine’s high walls. The M84 Geotech team consists of highly skilled and trained rope access technicians, and the company is an accredited member of the Institute for Work at Height, as well as an accredited installer of rockfall protection solutions. 

“We have been in the open-pit mining space for over six years, and understand the environment very well. We have 100% completion record on all projects we have undertaken, with no fatalities recorded,” he says.

Quest for zero harm

“Safety is our priority” is the company’s slogan. This informs how M84 Geotech runs its projects and ensures it never compromises on the safety of its technicians and the sites they work on.

“I always tell my team that we do not execute a project until we are sure that it is safe to do so, and if we cannot find a safe way to do it, we wait until we do. We come to sites to install safety measures, after all; not to become a safety hazard.

“Experience is always good to have, but I do not allow it to blind us to the dangers of the environment we work in. Some of the incidents that happen in mines are because people say they are experienced, and neglect or undermine the safety measures they must follow to guard against accidents. As a company, we do not tolerate any unsafe working because we value the lives of our people.” 

One of the aspects he loves about the work M84 Geotech does is that it protects lives. He notes that what the company offers to mining organisations is safety against rockfall hazards for both their miners and the equipment on-site. The solutions installed neutralise and protect mines against the risk of rockfall. If it is protected, he adds, M84 Geotech will guarantee that it will not cause harm.

“I believe it is important for mines to have a competent and skilled geotechnical engineering company on-site, to keep their operations safe from rockfall hazards on a day-to-day basis. 

“Our industry is usually a project-based business, but I think it saves a lot of on-boarding time when you have a capable contractor on-site, simply because you are able to respond to emergencies more rapidly.

“It is vital to always work safe and avoid taking unnecessary risks. Therefore, if you need a competent and professional rockfall protection specialist for your site, M84 Geotech is ready to offer the right solutions for your mine, because safety against rockfall hazards is our number one priority,” says Moleke.  


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