Canary returns underground

AFTER 18 months of development, five underground coal mining scenarios are available under Project Canary – a computer-based training simulation suitable for cleanskins and experienced operators.
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Blair Price

Published in the March 2011 Australian Longwall Magazine

The Mining Industry Skills Centre first launched Project Canary in 2008, with scenarios covering hazard awareness, vehicle interaction, fire, vehicle accident and head injury in a surface mine context.

The skills centre has recently released five new scenarios which focus directly on the potential hazards of underground mining.

Developed by the University of New South Wales and NewSouth Innovations, the five scenarios capture the ever-present dangers faced by underground coal miners.

Canary’s project team toured and mapped Xstrata’s Tahmoor mine, along with Centennial Coal’s Mannering Colliery and Newstan mine.

The resulting computer graphics provide enough detail to teach cleanskins about geological structures and hazards well before their first trip down a longwall mine, and can also be used to reinforce safety behaviour, emergency response procedures, supervisor training or to test experienced mine operators.

The response to the scenarios from site management has been extremely positive, with many commenting on the accurate depictions of the longwalls, continuous miners and shuttle cars used in the scenarios. In each scenario a miner must complete a range of set tasks reflecting real-life situations.

Those scenarios can be facilitator or trainee-led, which provides the opportunity for the group to react to, and experience, the consequences of unsafe behaviour.

Any actions can have consequences for the safety of the miner, his animated colleagues, equipment and the overall underground environment.

Each Project Canary scenario has been designed to be as realistic as possible.

The visual accuracy of the environment, the set tasks and potential consequences of unsafe behaviour immerse participants in the context and potential risks of under-ground mining.

Previous feedback indicates this type of training heightens emotional involvement and achieves better training outcomes. Trainers are already planning to use Project Canary to assess and deliver underground safety knowledge and skills.

“This is an excellent training aid that enhances the experience that the trainees obtain in our mine roadway by further immersing and exposing them to the underground environment,” Lennon Training manager John Lennon said.

Each session is run by a trainer who can direct each scenario to deliver specific learning outcomes. Cleanskins are likely to have longer runs with each scenario than experienced operators, who have also been impressed with the realism.

While the skills centre considers development of more underground scenarios, overseas markets are another opportunity, with Project Canary already translated into Bahasa Indonesian. Spanish, Hindi, Chinese and French translations of the product are also under consideration.

The latest and third version of Project Canary was launched in February, with two-day trials of the underground scenarios now available. Project Canary only featured one underground coal scenario when it was first launched in September 2008.

Demonstrations of the full suite of scenarios can be arranged by contacting the skills centre via

MISC's Underground Scenarios


This scenario presents an underground coal mine with a five-heading panel. The heading contains a transfer station, conveyor belt, feeder breaker, shuttle car, continuous miner, and other general infrastructure and hazards.

This scenario is focused on familiarising trainees with key safety issues in underground coal mines, where hazard identification, risk assessment, and applying controls can be taught and applied.


Rib and roof stability in underground environments is a key hazard that can lead to serious personal injury and damage to equipment.

The objective of the scenario is to raise key safety issues related to roof and rib stability in underground coal mines and what indicators to look for. Controls to manage those hazards can also be discussed and implemented.


This scenario teaches students how to find evidence of coal heatings, which could lead to spontaneous combustion. Trainees are required to perform inspections of several stoppings in a longwall mine to investigate gas-reading levels.

In addition, discussion can be heldaround what gas results mean, and what responsive actions need to be taken to avoid potential combustion.


The outburst scenario takes place in a two-heading longwall development panel. An outburst event occurs, and trainees investigate the aftermath of that outburst. In addition, trainees may also view examples of outburst indicators.


This scenario shows a two-heading longwall panel where a belt fire is in progress. The objective is to familiarise trainees with key safety issues and emergency evacuation procedures related to underground coal mines.

The module concentrates on what indicators of hazard are present, decision-making and response to the situation, and unaided and safe self-escape.