The current Indian project started in 1997 as a three-year joint venture between SIMTARS, strata control consultants SCT International, and mining consultancy group Geo-Eng, with funding from AusAID.
When the initial three-year project was completed successfully in 2000 a one-year extension was funded by AusAID to set up a gas analysis facility and provide further risk based mine safety training. SIMTARS's role throughout the project has been to train the Indian Mines Inspectorate in electrical testing, occupational health and safety, gas analysis and risk based safety management, said SIMTARS director, Stewart Bell.
The Indian partner in the project is the Directorate General of Mine Safety, the body responsible for safety at all mine sites in India.
Areas that have been covered during the course of the project include longwall face support; electrical testing; roadway support; OHS; mine safety management systems; environmental management; the establishment of an occupational hygiene laboratory and mine emergency evacuation techniques. All systems have been tailored to the needs of the Indian mines to ensure maximum applicability of the training and equipment supplied.
Recent achievements include the development of a Safety Website designed to enable the Indian Inspectorate to tap into a range of safety-related issues and reports. Four "model" mines have been established with Australian risk management systems around issues such as inundation, spontaneous combustion and fire control. These mines will eventually become model mines for others in their region.
Bell, who has visited the Indian mines several times, said many mines still used 19th century methods to test for gas and that this practice was placing miner’s lives at risk because of the length of time taken to complete these analyses. Bell said SIMTARS scientific staff had benefited from exposure to mine fires which are still reasonably common in Indian mines.
"We have such good environmental control systems in Australia that fully developed mine fires are very rare. My people have never seen fires like this and it has been a learning experience for both sides,” he said. "Australia is very highly regarded in India and we have had a very high level of acceptance of our training and technology from the Indian mining community."
The project, now due for completion in October is regarded by all of the involved parties as major success and will no doubt lead to further Australian exports to the Indian sub continent.
*SIMTARS is a business unit of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.