As the mining industry continues to push the boundaries of automation and mechanisation, the country’s largest copper miner, First Quantum Minerals, has installed one of the world’s most realistic and sophisticated simulators to train mine equipment operators.
The mining firm has installed two of ThoroughTec’s latest generation Cybermine 5 Full-Mission simulators at its Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi, North-Western Province, to make operator training safer and more efficient.
The simulators are helping to improve operations in the mining firm’s projects and boost skills development in its workforce, said FQM’s Training and Development Manager Ian McIntosh.
Faced with a shortage of skilled and qualified employees in a dynamic and technology intensive industry, the company is continuously searching for ways to match skills to requirements in its production-sensitive mines.
“Skills and knowledge transfer have continued to be key drivers of long-term solutions aimed at addressing the skills gap between expatriates and local technicians. Key to bridging this gap at our mines is investing in state-of-the-art machinery that can give us accurate information during training simulations thus enabling us to proactively address any shortcomings among our operators and trainees,” explained Mr McIntosh.
“First Quantum sees direct employment as one of the crucial benefits it can deliver in terms of social and economic impact in its areas of operations. Skills training is also part of ensuring long-term sustainable prosperity for both the community and Zambia’s mining sector driven by a skilled labour pool,” he continued.
The containerised Cybermine simulation system is housed in a 6-metre ISO high-cube container, which is insulated, air-conditioned, and protected against dust. The interior is well-appointed and has integrated power distribution and variable lighting to provide a comfortable and controlled learning environment.
The simulator cabs are highly realistic replicas of the actual mining equipment where instruments and controls look, feel, and operate as they do in the actual mining vehicle. To switch between specialised mining equipment, cabs can be easily swapped by the instructor and immediately recognised by the Cybermine simulation software, which automatically initiates the correct mining equipment simulation.
The simulators also allow operators to experience and practice the desired responses to emergencies such as brake failures and vehicle fires, something that is impossible to do any other way. Another unique feature and a first in the Mining Industry is the ability of the two simulator units to ‘interplay’ between each other and to train operators in teamwork and to provide them with a better understanding of how their actions affect the other operator and production productivity.
In line with its sustainability strategy, FQM is dedicated to developing employees’ skills so they can perform duties in their current and possible future roles at the mine.
FQM believes that a company is only as strong as its people, and a productive workplace is vital to the success and sustainability of every company, and that is why employee satisfaction remains essential to the mining giant’s overall success.
First Quantum Minerals is an equal opportunity employer and embraces Zambia’s diversity. It has put in place measures that help to provide suitable employment opportunities to local community members through a local recruitment database of community members established with traditional leaders, and a local baseline census.