Protecting Mining and Quarry Operations
Addressing challenges not typically found in other locations
- By Dana Pruiett
- Mar 01, 2019
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.
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.
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
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.
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.