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IoT and Safety in mining, the new industry norm.

"Mining operations are going all in on IoT to increase the efficiency and productivity of their sites."

Working in mining means facing health and safety challenges daily. Mines are dark, hot, and dusty, which can risk worker health. The remote, hot, and dusty sites leave equipment and construction at risk of wear and tear without careful monitoring. 

Fortunately, mining is a very progressive industry, and it invests in tech to improve mining sites, worker experiences, and business efficiency. Leveraging IoT across various areas of the sector to improve the health of the workers and the industry. Here are just a few of the innovative  ways: 

Rock bolt monitoring 

Rock bolts as you can imagine are very important, they provide support to the roof or sides of the cavity to prevent mines from collapsing. You can also imagine how important it is to monitor the health of these bolts. Currently this is mainly a manual process. An example of a company that is innovating in this space and trying to change it, is Safety Bolt.

As the role of data is embraced, Mines are quickly realising the role that data can play as the central operating system of mines. Data is as good as it’s source, mines are now more active in probing with much greater prudence and with more scrutiny, validating data sources, right down to the sensor technologies themselves. Thanks to institutional and government support, as well as mining market places, the key questions are now being asked. 

However these sensors can erode over time due to environmental and structural elements, increasing the risk of falling rubble or even ceilings. Smart sensors can be built to measure practically anything, but when coupled with scale, ease of installation, retrofit-ability and a high cost efficiency expectations. Many technologies fail to meet the grade. 

Safety Bolt is a pioneer in bolt preload force and strain measurement. This has been in the backroom research lab for the past 8 years finding the solution that solves many of these tradeoffs.


Airflow in a mine is a critical component of worker health and safety. Workers are not only at risk from reduced ventilation but may be at risk from pooling toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and inhalation of airborne particulates. Fortunately, IoT is here to help. Ventilation on Demand (VOD) technology uses sensors to detect the location of people and direct airflow to those areas, shutting it off to unworked areas. As well as increasing worker health and safety, this reduced the cost of energy consumption. Ventilation mining curtains also direct air to specific mine areas and detect and trap any potential contamination.

Wearable tech 

Sensor-embedded helmets provide a way to track and monitor miners’ health while underground. An example is Jannatech’s smart helmet which complies with industry safety requirements and enables hands-free communications. Lighting improves visibility, and there’s also RFID tagging, proximity detection, and biometric monitoring. Future iterations will include photo and video recordings to monitor underground incidents and maintenance.  

Additionally, in Australia, a company called Smart Cap is using IoT to monitor driver fatigue and drowsiness in industries like mining. A wearable band is attached to a cap, hard hat, or beanie to monitor drive alertness. Traditional fatigue monitoring tech uses lag indicators to generate alarms once a person falls asleep and is prone to false alarms. 

The Smart Cap uses EEG (electroencephalography) to monitor the fatigue levels of on-site drivers, identifying early stages of fatigue and alerting an operator before this causes a risk to life. Workers can monitor their fatigue levels in real time via Bluetooth. Sennatech has also developed IoT-embedded cooling jackets, which monitor a worker’s temperature and heart rate to monitor workers for heat stress and provide critical cooling capabilities.

Mining 4.0 

Mining operations are going all in on IoT to increase the efficiency and productivity of their sites. In 2019, Rio Tinto started the Koodaideri project to build the world’s first “intelligent mine,” with plans to use fully integrated mine operation and simulation systems, such as digital twin technology. This enables both field and remotely located staff to access information based on real-time data and the capacity for testing without disrupting operations. 

Rio Tinto was the first mining company to introduce fully-autonomous haul trucks in 2008. The company also uses remotely operated land rovers and drones to do jobs in hard or dangerous locations for workers to access. The equipment is all embedded with sensors to monitor its health and enable predictive maintenance. The company also launched the world’s first fully autonomous, heavy-haul long-distance railway system – AutoHaul™. The trains travel autonomously (well, with remote monitoring) across a vast network of 1,700 kilometres of track. Autonomous trains remove the need to transport drivers to and from trains and improve safety through reduced risk at level crossings. 


Theo Giannopoulos, Marketing & Business Development Manager, Davra Connect on LinkedIn.

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