10 december 2015
Boliden Tara Mines is in no doubt about the positive impact that systematic training of equipment operators and maintenance personnel can have on efficiency. So much so, that it has made training a fundamental element of its business strategy. Boliden Tara Mines in Navan, Ireland, has been producing lead and zinc for almost 40 years, and in recent times has experienced many of the classic challenges of an older, deepening underground mine
Realizing that it needed to adapt its operations to address these challenges, the management team made two major strategic decisions. The first step was to restructure the organization towards a ‘one mine concept’, instead of the previous three-area concept, each with its own self-contained mining teams.
The second was to step up its personnel training program in order to enhance skills, work smarter and establish a climate of continuous improvement. Atlas Copco, which supplies Boliden Tara Mines with mining equipment, was also chosen to be the mine’s partner in training development. Mike Lowther, Manager of Mining, says the new direction was essential in order to maximize efficiency and flexibility.
“The deeper we go into the mine, the tougher the logistics get,” he says. “We can’t do anything about exchange rates, metal prices or orebody grades but we do have the ability to control the efficiencies of our mining and our costs. Mineralization is only ore if you can mine it profitably – to turn it into ore, the mine has to be economically viable.”
Over the years, the mine management has stressed the importance of enhancing skills and has worked closely with the local mining unions to achieve this. This work has now moved into a more intensive phase as an increasing pool of cross-skilled operators and maintenance staff pass through the Atlas Copco Drill Rig Simulator Training Program. Cross-skilling focuses on training the miners to operate groups of machines with similar functionality, such as Atlas Copco’s underground production drilling and bolting rigs. The first training program took place in 2013 and was an immediate success. The second was held earlier this year, and here too, the results appear to be having an even stronger impact on operations. In preparation for the 2015 course, the mine and Atlas Copco formed a strong project team led by Seán Gilmore, Training Coordinator at Boliden Tara Mines, supported by Damien Healy, Atlas Copco’s Service Manager in Ireland. Gilmore took on the instrumental role of Simulator Training Planner, making sure that all the preparations were in place prior to the delivery of the simulator. Strong backup was also received from the mine’s electrical and IT sections.