Murray & Roberts Cementation , simulation, drilling, drill rig, underground mining
Murray & Roberts Cementation drill rig operators train on the CYBERMINE simulator
The Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA) in Bentley Park near Carletonville, is deriving value from its five, high-fidelity CYBERMINE training simulators.

One of the top facilities of its kind in the world, MRTA provides training for an exceptionally diverse client base. Besides Murray & Roberts Cementation itself, Sibanye Resources, AngloGold Ashanti, Northam Platinum and De Beers all make use of this impressive underground, mechanised-mining operator training facility.

“Here at MRTA we apply the situational leadership model; Tell, Sell, Participate and Delegate,” says Tony Pretorius, ETD Executive at MRTA. Tell covers e-learning and instructor led coaching. Sell is all about visual based learning, including things such as animations, and really zoning in on reflexive capabilities and the mind.

“Then we have Participate, where simulation and virtual reality 3D modelling is coupled with mock-up training,” says Pretorius. Once done with simulation, operators enter the mock-up environment before going on into the workplace. This is where Delegate comes in and is the final stage, covering workplace integrated learning towards applied competence.

Simulation plays a vital role in the operator training process at MRTA. “Where we believe we’re the trendsetters in simulation is in the way that we map the learner’s psychomotor deficiencies to the simulation exercises and modelling,” says Pretorius. However, even before simulation training starts, the instructors review the psychomotor and risk propensity scores of the individual. They then couple the results of this to certain simulation exercises to “engineer out” the bad habitual behaviours of operators.

“The process starts with the diagnostic Dover Test System (DTS) assessment, rehabilitation training for operators who do not meet the DTS standard, pre-simulation conditioning and then only simulation. We can score the learner’s proficiency as they exit the simulated learning environment and enter the mock environment across health and safety, machine appreciation and productivity enhancement criteria.”

“Simulation has definitely reduced training cycle times, dramatically,” says Pretorius. “It also allows for interaction between the instructor and the learner, which is absolutely paramount when you think of how this is accomplished in the absence of simulation.

Aside from the obvious risks, you just won’t get the same measured training impact. Besides reduced cycle times, I really believe simulation has been a production enhancement tool.” MRTA trains around 350 operators on the simulators annually.

ThoroughTec Simulation has been working with MRTA for nearly a decade, refining and enhancing its simulation capabilities with CYBERMINE. “We looked at a number of service providers but it was clear that ThoroughTec was a sound choice, given their global footprint and reputation,” says Pretorius.

“Working with innovative institutions that are at the frontline of mine training is always motivating. We knew our reliable fourth-generation sims that we delivered would be worked hard,” says Richard Bellengere, VP of Operations at ThoroughTec.

MRTA has four of the latest generation CYBERMINE simulators for the training of underground equipment operators. These include a Sandvik DD320 drill rig, DS310 bolter, Toro 40D ADT and an LH517 LHD. “We clock massive hours on our simulators because most of our mechanised fleet is from Sandvik,’ says Pretorius.

MRTA also has an earlier generation CYBERMINE unit for training EJC 115 LP LHD operators, that’s still going strong. Pretorius likes to use the analogy of teaching an individual to drive a Volkswagen, because if you know how to drive a Volkswagen you know how to drive a BMW, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz etc. “The principle of operation remains the same, as well as the type of behaviour, no matter what type of car. You’re either do have the propensity to take risks, or you don’t.”

“One of the great things about simulation is that you’re assisting the trainee to learn important aspects of operation in a safe environment,” says Bellengere. “There is absolutely no risk to the trainee or the instructor and it saves in time and operating costs.”

Operators are scored on three levels of proficiency: health and safety, machine appreciation and productivity enhancement. Health and safety is obviously of paramount importance, and simulation allows MRTA to show operators where they’re going wrong, the ramifications that could have if left uncorrected and how they can be safer in the workplace.

“In terms of machine appreciation, it’s absolutely paramount that a mine or contractor’s engineering department understands what happens when operating a machine with different operators, how this affects different parts and the use of consumables, that’s really where the cost lies. Simulation is useful in demonstrating to engineers how operators use the machines,” says Pretorius.

“What we really enjoy is having a final report, a proficiency scorecard that we can use to communicate to supervisors so they have first-hand knowledge of how a particular operator is going to operate in the workplace. They can also see the areas of supervision required so that safe production prevails at the end of the day.”

As mentioned before, simulation is not the only training tool used at MRTA. The facility recently purchased a Virtual Reality simulator as part of their mock mine that allows miners in a mechanised environment to take line and grade and actually mark off a simulated development face.

“It gives you all the joys of being ‘underground’, without getting your boots dirty,” says Pretorius. “It makes learning fun and it’s a fully controlled, conducive environment where people know that they can concentrate on the learning, rather than having to worry about the natural environment where they could be harmed during the learning process.”

The mock mine also includes areas to learn and practice shaft sinking, development (direction and grade; drilling, support installation and time blasting), bolting, double drum winching, charging and initiating systems, pipe suspension and installation. An artisan workshop is also located on site.

According to Pretorius, simulation training must form part of the overall integrated process towards applied competence. It should be used in conjunction with other training interventions such as e-learning, visual-based learning, mock-up and workplace competency development.

“We’re also very excited about ThoroughTec’s new CYBERMINE Workforce Excellence workforce optimisation and training management platform. We are passionate about using technology as a learning enhancement tool and this advanced and intuitive platform could form part of our plans to enhance our training capabilities in the future,” concludes Pretorius.