Unprecedented has become the buzzword when discussing the weather, and for mining companies the world over, unprecedented climate extremes have been creating chaos.
In early March 2023, operations were suspended throughout the North West Minerals Province in Queensland, Australia, due to record-breaking rainfall. One site recorded over 600 mm in just two days — more than the annual average. Globally, severe storms and heavy rainfall continue to cause operational delays and revenue losses, compromising equipment and mine infrastructure. Flooded supply chain networks delay shipments and delivery, driving up unit costs.
At the other end of the spectrum, drought causes a complete rethink of water management on-site. The mining sectors in Mexico and Chile, and their vital lithium and copper production, have been impacted by crippling drought — for more than a decade in Chile alone. Water shortages challenge output and can create tension with local communities as severe scarcity affects everyone across struggling regions.
Utilising meteorological consultancy and the decision-support interface Miningzone provides an opportunity to fine-tune existing systems of management for each mining project.
Gaining situational awareness of extreme weather events
Preparation and hyperlocal monitoring are integral when confronting unprecedented climate risk. DTN deploys robust solutions delivering invaluable foresight: improving safety, reducing profit loss, and modelling what lies beyond the horizon. Utilising meteorological consultancy and the decision-support interface Miningzone provides an opportunity to fine-tune existing systems of management for each mining project, optimising each site’s unique preparation for and response to adverse weather conditions.
When storms threaten safety and operations
Lightning creates potentially fatal conditions on-site. There is a misconception that mining vehicles create a perfect Faraday cage, providing adequate physical protection. Large windscreens and side windows still enable lightning and side flash to penetrate the cabin, creating a dangerous environment for operators. Pyrolysis — the mixture of volatile compounds within the air chamber of tires that can potentially ignite — creates tire rupture or explosion. This process is sometimes delayed, posing a lying threat to workers within the vicinity of the vehicle post-strike.
Reducing the physical risks of lightning for mining companies
Stopping operations during storms when the lightning is within an unsafe radius is the best way to safeguard staff and mitigate damage to assets.
Accurate detection of local strikes identifies when lightning penetrates this radius. It supports the efficiency of Trigger Action Response Plans (TARPs) and reduces costly and unnecessary downtime caused by hyper-sensitive on-site sensors. DTN offers the Weather and Lightning Alerting Solution (WLAS), which operates in over 400 mines across the globe. Drawing on data from 1,800 sensors in more than 100 countries, WLAS delivers precise warnings of lightning proximity, configured to each mine’s thresholds. Each site receives clear guidance on when to halt and restart production. When WLAS is used in conjunction with WZBob Onsite Alerting, conspicuous, site-wide audible and visual alerts provide enhanced safety outcomes for mining personnel.
Monitoring weather conditions to protect mining infrastructure
Preparing a site by ensuring mobile mining equipment and operators are undercover takes time. Having the ability to visualise potentially damaging systems before they hit maximises the time needed to safely shut down.
Stormtracker is the solution that allows a mine’s control room operator to chart the progress of incoming weather and mount a targeted response. A Geographic Information System (GIS), Stormtracker displays multiple weather layers mapped over each geofenced mining site. All infrastructure is visible, providing a clear picture of what and who needs to be prepared and protected.
Mining projects vulnerable to tropical cyclones
Tropical cyclones and hurricanes pose a growing threat to mines globally. DTN offers a 7-Day Tropical Cyclone Service that’s completely customised to each mine’s site and infrastructure. Conditions are remotely monitored 365 days a year. When a system develops within 600 nautical miles of a mine site, our meteorologists begin communicating vital data to operators. Tailored risk assessments are provided to enhance site preparation. Meteorologists are on call 24/7 throughout the impact, and visualisation via the Miningzone interface improves spatial awareness of its track.
Warm oceans and humid, volatile air influence the development and strength of these systems. It’s widely accepted that their intensity will increase with time. For vulnerable mines, accurate monitoring provides time to secure a site and evacuate personnel to reduce loss across the board.
Close consultation with our industry meteorologists drives the capacity to respond to climate impacts with confidence.
Supporting the mining industry to manage climate risks
Utilising meteorological modelling and consultancy creates added layers of protection and situational awareness for mine operators. Close consultation with our industry meteorologists drives the capacity to respond to climate impacts with confidence.
Seasonal outlooks are the key to analysing the possibilities that weather has in store and underpins considered preparation. Foresight regarding potential drought, high rainfall, and tropical cyclone activity guides effective risk mitigation. The success of planning water management, electricity storage, TARPs, and evacuation procedures is influenced by a detailed awareness of the potentiality of extreme conditions.
The urgent need for detailed risk communication
For the day-to-day management of immediate weather threats, quality risk communication is paramount. Our meteorologists dissect complex data and deliver tailored briefings and analytics around the clock. This support drives confident, rapid decision-making when severe weather is imminent. Audits of current weather management systems provide profitable opportunities to improve preparations and response, well before the storm inflicts its wrath.
It is indisputable that now is the time for companies to think ahead, strategizing to mitigate the effects of increasingly volatile weather patterns.
DTN supports mining sector plans for climate variability
Top-tier weather and environmental data and analytics drive adaptability and preparation within the mining industry. It is indisputable that now is the time for companies to think ahead, strategizing to mitigate the effects of increasingly volatile weather patterns. Only the most robust and trusted weather and data systems will deliver a dependable foundation for this kind of recalibration. DTN offers advanced solutions built on years of collaboration with the resources sector and will continually innovate as each new challenge arises.
Learn more about DTN Mining Solutions today.
About the author
As senior commercial Leader, APAC and director, Australia at WeatherZone, Martin Palmer utilises more than 20 years of practical experience gained in meteorology across both military and civilian organisations. His expertise lies in oceanography, meteorology, strategic management, stakeholder management and engagement, and data analysis and reporting. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Science in geography and a postgraduate diploma in meteorology and oceanography from the University of Plymouth in England.