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View Full Version : 29 dead- can technology reduce future casualties?



Hanno
11-25-2010, 03:25 AM
New Zealand has had another tragedy- first an earthquake a couple months back and now 2 explosions in a coal mine that killed 29 people.
Mining has and always will be dangerous. Why do we need to send 17 year olds underground? Years ago, miners used shovels and axes to extract minerals. Today, they mainly operate big machines- driving vehicles, monitoring extractors, etc.
Why aren't they sitting safely on top of the surface using remote control to do their jobs?
Hanno

kwinn
11-25-2010, 03:48 AM
New Zealand has had another tragedy- first an earthquake a couple months back and now 2 explosions in a coal mine that killed 29 people.
Mining has and always will be dangerous. Why do we need to send 17 year olds underground? Years ago, miners used shovels and axes to extract minerals. Today, they mainly operate big machines- driving vehicles, monitoring extractors, etc.
Why aren't they sitting safely on top of the surface using remote control to do their jobs?
Hanno

Excellent question Hanno. I wonder if it might have something to do with the extra cost reducing executive bonuses a bit? Perhaps if mine companies had to pay for a reasonable life insurance package ( say $ 500K USD ) for each person who works underground that might change.

potatohead
11-25-2010, 04:05 AM
I think it's cost too.

External costs are often marginalized, and that creates false economies for these kinds of things.

Imagine the cost of such a automation. Expensive, though probably good economic activity. Now, how much are the people worth? IMHO, the cost of the policy would probably be less than automation and enabling technology necessary to perform the task unmanned. Though it would probably exceed the longer term running costs, once the build outs needed were complete, and operating correctly.

IMHO, costs like that beg another question and that one is, "are there alternatives?", and if so, what does the enabling technology build up look like to use those?

Personally, I would be perfectly happy to pay, or do without, if the external costs were to be considered, and deemed unacceptable. I am bothered at times when I don't know too. We often don't, until something ugly happens somewhere in the world.

There should be a way to fix that dynamic, but it's going to take a significant amount of political will to be realized. Not sure how such a effort would be structured, and whether or not it wouldn't be exploited just as things are now.

Good thoughts though! IMHO, that's something at least.

Dr_Acula
11-25-2010, 05:25 AM
I was talking about this with my father who is an engineer, and who has worked with an electrical contractor who installs megawatt fans in mines. There are mines where the airflow is such that you feel it as a wind - he mentioned a number like 4m/s.

This mine in NZ was/is 'gassy', and I would have thought one solution would be to pump so much air through that the methane would never get a chance to accumulate.

It is a terrible tragedy for NZ.

Loopy Byteloose
11-25-2010, 06:14 AM
This isn't exactly a Propeller topic, but Parallax has always been tolerant with letting us explore humane ideas.

Coal mining has a long history of gas explosions. In contrast, the miners in Chile were NOT mining coal and the media has created the illusion that all might soon be possible in terms of mining rescue.

Robots would be a good alternative, but the problems of explosions and fires would still remain. There are regions in the USA and India where underground coal fires have continued to burn unabated for decades as the economic costs of stopping them are beyond reality.

The USA has age limits on such work, usually 18 years old. But having worked heavy construction where ocassional deaths occur, I can't say a mother is any happier when her 23 year old son dies than when a 17 year old son dies. Mining is the most dangerous occupation in the world; fishing, logging, and construcion follow closely behind.

To completely aviod the hazard, about all that New Zealand can do is to close all underground coal mining. At some point all machinery breaks down and you need to send crews into the mine for repair and maintenance. And of course, even robots are more productive if operators are nearby to trouble shoot and tweak operations as situations evolve.

Many of us are lucky to have jobs where we don't have to face serious safety hazards to make a living, but there will always be such jobs. Waitresses suffer deaths from slips and falls; taxi cab drivers live in constant fear of being murdered. These deaths just don't make the news, but occur quite often.

potatohead
11-25-2010, 06:43 AM
It is terrible. IMHO, that's worth some discussion. People are worth a lot, and it's never good when they are lost. Makes one think about a lot of things. Honestly, some of that thinking is good, which is why I posted up. No reason to get personal on it. We really don't have the answers right now, and we won't ever get them without asking some of the ugly questions, thinking about possible answers.

Toby Seckshund
11-25-2010, 08:39 AM
A mate at work was playing a film about the clearing up operation at Chenoble(?) after the reactor exploded. There the robots broke down (in minutes) and I hear that an robot sent into the mine tunnel broke down too.

I beleive that the word "ROBOT" is east European and means " a person doing repetative, menial tasks". Just about sums up the true level of our technology.

Ale
11-25-2010, 11:24 AM
Robota or similar depending on the language (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, and so on) means to work, I do not think it means repetitive mindless... but maybe in the past.

Many of these accidents arise due to our way of life. We want to plug the pc and being able to use it, turn on the radio and hear some music. But these goods, this energy has to be produced. Some countries produce half of their electricity burning coal... When we think about it it is absurd... really wasteful, unclean, inefficient. Solar cells are maybe a good idea but they have to be manufactured. It is a vicious cycle, at some point we have to change and realize what are we doing, how and why, and change.

Sapieha
11-25-2010, 12:08 PM
Hi Ale.

You are near BUT. Correct Polish meaning

Robota = Work.

to work = Do Roboty.

ROBOT = One that work without REST



Robota or similar depending on the language (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, and so on) means to work, I do not think it means repetitive mindless... but maybe in the past.

Many of these accidents arise due to our way of life. We want to plug the pc and being able to use it, turn on the radio and hear some music. But these goods, this energy has to be produced. Some countries produce half of their electricity burning coal... When we think about it it is absurd... really wasteful, unclean, inefficient. Solar cells are maybe a good idea but they have to be manufactured. It is a vicious cycle, at some point we have to change and realize what are we doing, how and why, and change.

Hanno
11-25-2010, 01:32 PM
Good comments. I realize that complete prevention of casualties is probably too expensive. However, what about just trying to minimize the number of people that must be underground? Remote operated drones are removing many soldiers from the battlefield- reducing both casualties and cost. Would be nice to dedicate some engineering talent to help automate more mining technology. I wouldn't aim for perfection, or complete automation- still keep human involved, but keep most of the above ground.
Hanno

Batang
11-25-2010, 01:35 PM
Fun trivia:

In South Africa a Robot is a traffic light.



P.S. Condolences for the Kiwi's.

ErNa
11-25-2010, 01:38 PM
Life is short, dangerous, and as a rule of thumb, it ends with dead. A german saying. I once visited a coal mine and I know, man must be "vor Ort" <=> "at place" (at face, in english). Coal mining means to improvise and an old time pitman could work in any profession, therefor the mostly build there houses themselves. The cold we know is refined coal, what comes from underground is mixed with stones, debris and so on. Today underground coal mining is about 20% digging coal, 40% transportation (logistics) and 40% building the tunnels to reach the coal. No for robots, work for real robotnics. In 1962 we had such an accident in Luisenthal, where 299 men were killed. The methan gas often just ignites the omnipresent coal dust, being raised by the gas explosion. Coal dust explosion is more like a detonation. A very simple way to prevent that is to place open water tank in gable of the galleries. The gas explosion tilts the tanks, the water spray is binding the dust and the second, deatly explosion is prevented. But if they do not know this little "trick", or if the just ignore it or if the save the money to maintain and refill the open tanks, as long as there is no inspection, we will see such events. But somehow we are blind. We all know, that radiation changes the gens, but to make some billions of profit, a country like germany allows some people to create many more tons of radio active material. But we take care, that others don't gain knowledge to build there own npp.
But we as Propeller addicts are going the right way. We spend a lot of time to program energy saving chips, don't drive cars or watch tv during that time and are creating green technology. This will reduce the necessity to make energy always cheaper at the expence of people doing a hard job. To these we also have to "give thanks"