First Quantum Minerals (FQM), a Canadian-based mining and metals company, has outfitted its Zambian, Kansanshi copper-gold mine with two of ThoroughTec’s latest generation Cybermine 5 Full-Mission simulators – and they could not be happier.

Operator on the Cybermine Liebherr 9350 Simulator. Photo by ThoroughTec

Operator on the Cybermine Liebherr 9350 Simulator. Photo by ThoroughTec

In 2017, FQM undertook to revamp their mobile equipment operator training programme, and part of this included the utilisation of simulators. According to Ian McIntosh, training and development manager at FQM, the company looked at simulators and realised their unique potential to prepare its operators for emergency scenarios and situations. Having had experience with simulation before, McIntosh knew the benefits the company and staff could all reap.

FQM conducted a thorough review of the market and after comparing all leading suppliers in terms of cost, features, potential for customisation, and support, it was clear that ThoroughTec Simulation, from South Africa, was the standout supplier to meet their needs.

FQM’s Cybermine 5th Generation Simulator System incorporates two ruggedised, containerised base units and three modular cabs, the Caterpillar 785-C, Hitachi EH3500 and Liebherr 9350.

The simulators will be heavily-utilised to train new recruits from the local community as well as provide refresher training for existing operators – every six months in the case of Hitachi truck drivers and once a year for the Caterpillar 785-C and Liebherr 9350 operators. “Having the simulators to handle the bulk of the training requirement saves us from removing machines from production. Considering the number of operators we have, that adds up quickly. We also have the ability to better prepare our operators for potential equipment failures – the “what if“ scenarios,” says McIntosh.

“Going back to the catalyst of purchasing the simulators, when we started the process, I revamped the whole training system, including the processes and procedures on site. I looked at the airline industry for inspiration, and if you look at their training methods, they put a huge emphasis on simulator training for their pilots. The airline industry has a program called Upset, Prevention and Response (UPRT) which takes pilots through emergency scenarios over-and-over again until they do it the right way and it almost becomes muscle memory. I wanted to mimic that in our simulator training process”.

ThoroughTec’s simulators allow operators to experience and practice responding to emergencies such as brake failures and vehicle fires, something that is impossible to do any other way.

Kansanshi Mine operates six trolley-assist lines on the pit ramps, with significant operational benefits including reduced fuel consumption, increased engine life and greater up-ramp speed, from 11kmph to 23kmph. To ensure that their truck drivers are proficient in the use of the trolley lines and thereby achieve their haulage-boosting potential, Kansanshi opted to include a custom `Own Mine World` in their simulator development. This ‘digital-twin’ of their mine site and operations, gives trainee truck drivers the ability to practise using the pantograph system on their trucks, engaging and disengaging the trolley-assist lines at the ideal location and angle; and thereby avoiding mishap and inefficiency.

Another feature McIntosh saw and requested, following a tour of ThoroughTec’s factory, was the ability to network two or more simulator units – a common practice in the military simulation space. “I wanted the simulators to interplay, to train operators in teamwork and to provide them with a better understanding of how their actions affect the other operators,” notes McIntosh.