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Innovation protects underground workers from falling hazards

Monday, November 21st, 2022

The Australian-made SafetySpear won the prestigious Innovative Mining Solution category at the Australian Mining Prospect Awards last week, just 18 months after it was introduced to the market.

From over 20 nominations, the Safety Spear was the only physical, real-world product among the three finalists, the others being data-based.

Designed and manufactured by Rattlejack, the SafetySpear works to protect underground mining personnel and equipment from free falling overhead hazards by plugging drill holes quickly and inexpensively with a lightweight, high-impact absorbing polymer system.

First introduced in May 2021, the spear’s market potential is being expanded by Murray Engineering, a Perth-based company with an international footprint.

The innovation addresses shortcomings of other practices in widespread global use, including corrosion-prone steel systems and traditional grouting and plating over where weaknesses can result in serious mine site injury and death.

It has been purpose-built to activate on impact with any downward force: its unique two-stage design decelerates the impact by blocking the hole with its flexible upper section, conforming to the shape and size of the available space.

This effectively stops the falling hazard with minimal backward movement, a method never seen in underground mining prior.

Installation is achieved with standard production drilling equipment enabling the hazard to be minimised without delay. With its lightweight design, the SafetySpear also has minimal risk of manual handling injuries, and includes easy-to-follow pictorial instructions for a simple installation process for operators of all experience levels.

In collaboration with Fosterville gold mine in Victoria and Byrnecut Mining Australia, the SafetySpear has been tested in real world conditions across various underground operations across Australia.

With accident occurrences involving severe weights, speeds and forces of height drop acceleration, the SafetySpear has proven results, able to safely handle weights immense weights in simulated worst-case scenarios typical at most mine sites.

Initial financial benefits across the two mine sites also show great promise, with Byrnecut estimating in excess of a $500,000 differential per year, compared to previous methods.

Fosterville has not completed a full 12-month cycle, and with much more challenging ground conditions place the differential at $250,000+ per year.

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