Protecting Mining and Quarry Operations

Protecting Mining and Quarry Operations

Addressing challenges not typically found in other locations

Natural resources being extracted at a mining or quarry operation not only have monetary value, but may also be critical components of medical, military, and industrial processes. Whether the mined products are diamonds, gold, uranium, or lead there’s a need to protect them from theft or terrorism.

Mining and quarry operations also present challenges not typically found in other locations. Operations are often spread over vast areas and open to extreme weather conditions. They may be located at great distances from first responders. There are likely large machines and vehicles on site. It’s hard to hear over all the noise and through frequently worn earplugs.

Visibility can be limited by piles of rocks and dust, as well as protective eyewear employees must wear. Then there’s the possible use of explosives and chemicals—all adding up to a dangerous environment for site visitors. Limiting access to visitors and unauthorized persons requires planning, and the use of physical security equipment.

Barriers

It is best to stop would-be terrorists or other criminals before they get near their target. Locked security gates and fences provide a good perimeter barrier. Razor wire atop fences discourages climbing. Setting fencing in three-foot deep trenches filled with concrete deters digging. Steel cable fencing can stop a 15,000-pound truck traveling at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. This type of fencing can be compared by its K-rating, a measure of how much kinetic energy, or speed plus weight, it can resist.

Twisted pair cable buried just below the perimeter surface can detect anyone passing over it to signal an alarm. As prices have dropped, radar systems are increasingly being used to detect movement at perimeters of large critical sites such as mines and quarries. Gates should be fortified to resist impacts. Concrete bollards protect buildings from taking a direct vehicular hit.

Accommodating Visitors

However, there is still a need for a fast and easy way to approve visitors for entry. Visitors might include truckers making deliveries or hauling away debris and valuable byproducts resulting from the mining processes. Here’s how one Southeastern U.S. quarry operator handles trucks coming onto its sites.

Dispatch officers needed a simple way to communicate with an almost endless line of trucks and their drivers stopping at scales to weigh vehicles before entering and leaving the quarry. A video intercom, mounted at driver-window height, allows dispatchers to easily see and speak with drivers to verify identification before remotely opening gates. If the local dispatcher has stepped away from the desk, the networked-based system allows another office to handle the process.

The units can be heard over the noise of diesel engines and background mining operations, which eliminated the need for additional speakers. The stainless-steel clad intercoms have stood up to the rugged environment which includes limestone dust, extreme temperatures, and even occasional grazing from a truck’s sideview mirror. As an added benefit, dispatchers use the intercom system to communicate between offices, eliminating several telephone lines and related monthly costs.

Video intercom-equipped emergency stations strategically placed throughout a facility enable employees to immediately contact security in case of an injury or other emergency.

A visitor management system helps track vendors, government inspectors, and others entering a mine’s main office. After swiping a government-issued ID card through the system, the visitor is provided a temporary adhesive badge to be worn while on the property. With the system in place, security teams can instantly determine who is on the premises. This can be important during an emergency requiring evacuation.

Security Cameras/Access Control

Surveillance cameras can provide extra sets of “eyes” to monitor the perimeter as well as equipment and facilities. Low-light and thermal cameras provide night images. Networked video can be monitored locally or at an off-site security operations center. However, the amount of data may be overwhelming for security guards to effectively monitor. That’s why analytics, built into the cameras or VMS software, can alarm when pre-defined activities take place. That might include movement within a restricted area after normal operating hours. The VMS can be linked to perimeter security cueing cameras to begin recording on motion.

An access control system with card readers or keypads allow only authorized visitors to enter work areas. The system also can be used to record employees’ time and attendance, eliminating the need for time cards. Access control is also helpful for controlling use of computer workstations that provide access to vital corporate records.

Depending upon the sensitivity and value of products being mined, operators might want to hire trained and armed security guards as an extra security layer.

Emergency Planning

The middle of a crisis situation is not the best time to create an emergency plan. While planning for emergencies, take into account the weather, the condition of roads leading to and from the facility— even the proximity to companies which produce, use, store, or transport explosives or other dangerous goods. Also, OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) require emergency plans and signage.

Be prepared to lockdown the area, letting no one enter or leave during a crisis and have an evacuation plan ready in case of a chemical spill or similar situation. Effective communications are essential for alerting personnel on site. An intercom system with open-air horns or sirens may be an effective outdoor solution.

Engage local first providers to help if an emergency threatens the safety of employees and/or surrounding communities. Notify local news outlets to help share a controlled message and put an end to rumors. Then practice the plan frequently so employees immediately know what’s expected of them when an emergency strikes.

The goals of any security and/or emergency plan should be to protect employees while maintaining operations. That’s made easier with the use of layered electronic security equipment and the development of specific plans to handle situations that may arise.

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Security Today.

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