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NORCAT commences simulator training

Sudbury miners train their equipment operators on modules for two loaders, an Atlas Copco jumbo and a Maclean bolter The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) has commenced training mining equipment operators on a Thoroughtec simulator.

Sudbury miners train their equipment operators on modules for two loaders, an Atlas Copco jumbo and a Maclean bolter

The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) has commenced training mining equipment operators on a Thoroughtec simulator.

The Sudbury based innovation and training centre has commitments from three area mining companies – Vale, KGHM International and Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations– to train equipment operators using simulator modules for a 900 Series MacLean bolter, a 292 Atlas Copco Rocket Boomer and two 10-yard loaders – Sandvik’s LH517 and Caterpillar’s 1700G.

The load-haul-dump modules will eventually be swapped for two eightyard LHD modules.

The acquisition of a simulator is a natural progression for NORCAT, which has 20 years of experience using handson, classroom and online training for the mining industry.

“We embarked on a fairly rigorous exercise to understand the key challenges our customers face in relation to the training and development of their skilled workforce,” said NORCAT CEO Don Duval.

“One of the things we firmly believe in is the integration of hands-on, in the field training and classroom training.

We’re now adding a simulation component to that, aiming for the desired outcome of safer and more productive equipment operation.”

NORCAT underwent a competitive bid process for the simulator and Thoroughtec came out on top. “Thoroughtec is a global player,” said Duval. “They have simulator equipment in mines around the world.”

The four modules selected were based on consultations with Cementation, Redpath, and Technica Mining, as well as Vale, KGHM and Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations. Since then, additional Northern Ontario-based mining companies have expressed an interest in using the NORCAT simulator for training on other equipment, which could result in the purchase of additional modules down the road.

Training partner

Thoroughtec sweetened the deal by recognizing NORCAT as a preferred training and development provider, positioning the Sudbury non-profit to assist mining companies around the world with the development of curriculum and training pedagogy models for simulator training.

NORCAT hopes to help mining companies develop “that perfect recipe” of simulator, classroom and in the field training “to ensure that workers of different demographics are learning at the right pace and ultimately achieving the outcome of being more productive and safer in the work environment,” said Duval.

Anyone can acquire a simulator. How to best use it is what NORCAT brings to the table, he added. “There are questions like how many people do you train at one time. What scenarios do you run? And after an operator spends an hour in a simulator, how do you debrief and review the simulation in playback mode to point out opportunities for improvement?

“Simulator training has to be paired with the right training model,” he counselled. “Otherwise, you’re not going to see the benefits you expect.”

Heading up simulator training for NORCAT is Tom White, a former Vale employee who has many years of experience using all four pieces of equipment and, more recently, spent six years running a simulator training centre in Sudbury for a mining equipment manufacturer.

“Tom has reached out to our three mining companies to really understand at a tactical level the specific challenges with these pieces of equipment,” said Duval.

Taking off

Simulation training is well established in the aviation and health-care sectors, and is beginning to take off in the mining industry.

“Although mining is deemed to be one of the safest skilled labour industries in Canada, there’s still a strong push to deploy new techniques to make it even safer, more productive and to improve asset utilization,” said Duval. “When a scoop goes down because an operator has blown a tire or there’s an engine fire due to inadequate training, it costs companies a lot of money.”

Video of generic underground environments will be used for the training at NORCAT. However, there is also the option to capture video of a specific mine layout if one of NORCAT’s customers sees value in it and is prepared to pick up the cost.

Sitting in the cab of a simulator “is identical to sitting in a piece of equipment,” said Duval. “The layout, the noise and the vibration are the same, and the resolution of the 360-degree screen is unbelievable.”

The effectiveness of simulator training at NORCAT will be studied through a partnership with Laurentian University’s Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH), which has a research program focusing on the impact of mining equipment design and driving behaviour on injuries and accidents.

The purchase of the Thoroughtec simulator was funded by a $750,000 contribution from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.