Businesses working in the mining sector must dedicate considerable time and resources to developing a comprehensive risk management program.
When it comes to workplace injuries, environmental impact or the implications of technical failures, this industry is more dangerous than most. In this competitive business, mining companies are constantly striving to improve their risk management protocols and minimise the risks associated with their workers’ safety. Consequently, many mining companies work closely with their insurers to develop policies which will retain their risk levels. Mining is a technologically unique industry and therefore the risk assessment of the area requires professionals capable of applying the latest research and knowledge to the site in order to ascertain accurate risk levels. Environmental scientists are used by the mining industry to assess the risk of ecological changes and the impact these events may have on the mine’s functionality. Similarly, geotechnical engineers can identify the likelihood of incidents such as a pit slope failure. When these expert opinions are gathered together, a comprehensive risk management policy can be presented to mitigate risks and safeguard workers and the business alike.
Thorough training in the correct use of machinery and relevant health and safety procedures is standard protocol for all mining companies.
Equipping workers with the necessary abilities to perform their jobs in the correct way mitigates their risk of an accident. It is important to note that due to the relatively high risk work performed in mining companies, the industry is often a target for insurance fraud and therefore third-party investigators should be enlisted in the event of a suspicious claim. Pay-outs to injured workers can cripple small mining companies financially and seriously damage the reputation of all involved. As concern over climate change and human impact on the environment becomes ever more prominent, mining industries are under increasing pressure. The processes by which we extract valuable elements from the earth now needs to not only keep workers safe but also protect the surrounding environment. New technological processes such as fracking have been particularly heavily criticised. All mining companies, regardless of the techniques used, need to reassess the impact their actions are having on the environment and work to mitigate these effects to avoid incurring civil fines and sanctions from local and global authorities. The often remote and inhospitable locations in which many mining companies operate can pose numerous problems to their capability to manage risk. These areas are often susceptible to natural disasters, unavoidable forces of nature which can devastate mining communities if they hit without warning. Although hard to predict, if a mine is at risk on any level of a natural disaster, a contingency plan should be in place. Failure to anticipate events such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan which disabled the cooling system at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 led to the power plant meltdown which forced the evacuation of 160,000 in the wake of a wider natural disaster, leading to 1,600 deaths. The power plant had no contingency for natural disasters like the ones experienced and was therefore completely unprepared for their impact. Mining industries, especially in vulnerable areas, must develop comprehensive contingency plans to be implemented in the wake of these events, regardless of their likelihood. The mining industry is constantly expanding as companies attempt to reach new assets in element-rich areas of the planet. From mining in new countries where risk management may require a different approach to dealing with new technologies and geographical locations, every foray into a new area of the industry requires the mining company to reassess, update and improve their risk management policy. Existing sites should undergo regular risk audits to ensure every conceivable measure is being taken at all times to mitigate the risk of foreseeable events on workers and the surrounding environment.