In the south of Mali in West Africa, a high production gold mine is using Fast Track to get better control over its administrative processes, manage hazards, prepare for potential problems and be ready to react quickly when regulatory authorities conduct audits.
The Syama gold mine was able to acquire, install and learn how to use the Fast Track compliance management modules independently of direct Fast Track support due to the region’s remoteness.
The mine’s additional challenge is that its workers speak multiple languages.
The open-pit mine, officially named Societe Des Mines De Syama, is 80 per cent owned by Australia’s Resolute Mining and the rest by the Republic of Mali. It is 30 kilometres from the Ivory Coast border and 300 kilometres southeast of Bamako, the capital of Mali.
The site training and safety coordinator at the Syama mine has been using Fast Track since 2004, thanks to a referral from Golden Pride, another gold mining operation in Tanzania, East Africa.
Syama uses Fast Track modules for audit, CARs, document control, risk assessments, incident case management, equipment control, skills and training and supplier and contract management.
When someone needed a document, the company probably had it on site, but there was no set location for it that would be free of interference. The staff might not use the approved documents at all, but come up with their own versions that had not been approved and were not standardised.
“It was found necessary to have a central point where documents could be obtained if the needed anything for reference,” the coordinator said.
“Anything that the mine would need to run the business, there must be a point where these documents must be kept, and monitored.”
Fast Track is used as an inventory of site-approved documents.
Documents sitting in Fast Track, no matter how useful they may prove to be initially, will still have to be revisited and reviewed annual or more frequently as deemed necessary. changes may be required.
Stakeholders can review the document on Fast Track and the owner can review further and accept the document.
It can be programmed so that documents that are stored on it (e.g. forms, training documentation, procedures, etc) can be reviewed periodically. For example, the mine has a special document for reporting incidents like accidents or injuries.
At some stage, as part of continuous improvement, the Incident Reporting Form may need some additions. In this case the owner of the document can initiate document review.
The Incident Reporting Form outlines procedures and actions that must be completed by a specific person to follow up. Information relating to a particular incident is then entered on Fast Track. Review dates are set and inserted in for follow-up. Fast Track then creates reminders to make those follow-ups.
Before the mine installed Fast Track, people would forget to keep up with the action plan. That is no longer a problem.
"It was necessary to have a system that would remind them a week or two before, to make sure that the action is completed. The Fast Track software is linked to Outlook, so it generates the reminder to the person responsible in the incident report that there is something they have to do," the coordinator said.
Each person has his own diary within the same Fast Track module. The reminder is kept in the diary, and the supervisor can access all the places where people have a reminder that they have not acted on.
It would be hard for anyone to say they didn't know they were expected to perform a certain action, so there is more incentive to get it done.
If other people are involved or concerned in resolving the incident, Fast Track brings it to their attention as well. In that way, everyone stays connected.
A gold mine is a complex operation with heavy machinery and vehicles active at all hours, day and night. Training is a crucial part of smooth operations.
The moment someone joins the Syama mine, they go through a training session called a site induction. This training also has to be renewed periodically. Fast Track can be programmed so that reminders of refresher dates can be sent to those concerned.
Fast Track logs the date of induction and renewal dates so that there is always a clear record of who has been trained, what training they got, and when the time comes near for the refresher course.
If the training must be renewed annually, it will issue an alert after 10 or 11 months so that a new training session can be scheduled.
This also applies to other training courses such as first-aid training (for which refresher is after 3 yrs), or fire fighting training (for which refresher is after 2 years), and other similar courses.
"Fast Track has also simplified the keeping of training records. We used to have a system where we used Excel. It can be painstaking to put together the whole matrix of employees with their level of competency, whether they are still training or whether they are proficient," the coordinator said.
"Fast Track has made this very easy in the sense that we input the information and we can always read the report at once whenever we need to know the training status of a group or an individual. It takes only a few seconds to deliver a report. You can print it and give it to that individual person. Or the person in charge of training can generate a report in general and put it on a notice board."
Fast Track can track and monitor incidents as well as identify and monitor possible hazards. This could include anything that might cause injury, damage equipment or otherwise impact the productivity of the mine.
In an open pit mine, some hazards are a necessary part of the business. For instance, dump trucks are needed to move ore, and while there are safety rules specifying the minimum distance to keep around machinery, the drivers may have to operate with restricted vision in tight quarters.
Some of the miners must work near a rock wall. Should there ever be an earthquake or tremor, there is a risk of rocks breaking away. Other hazards in the pit may include explosives and misfires.
Once again, when a hazard has been noted, the form also requires that a name be entered of a responsible person who will address the issue. As soon as the name is entered, Fast Track sends that person a notification that they must deal with the issue by a particular date.
"There are some situations that might involve an action that may take a number of months to complete," the coordinator said. In that case, there might be intermediate review dates. Fast Track makes sure everyone connected with the hazard report is reminded that an intermediate review is coming up.
How is a risk rate calculated?
"We put in the parameters we use for working out the risk of a particular hazard. It works out the triggers on its own," he said.
A hazard might be thought of as an incident that hasn't happened yet. For each hazard, there is a scale of probability that it will happen, and how often -high, low, or somewhere in between. There are represented by numbers.
There is also a scale of the severity of the consequences should something go wrong. These also are represented by numbers. When the estimated levels of probability and consequence are inserted in their appropriate fields on Fast Track, the risk rate is automatically calculated. The mine managers assign an amount of risk to each hazard.
"If you were to do that on a piece of paper it would take a considerable amount of time to work out. But if you go to Fast Track it becomes easier," the coordinator said.
"All you do is put in the ratings of those components, and Fast Track whips out the final risk assessment."
Employees would go back and forth on a task simply because they had no tool to help manage the safety, health and environmental aspects of their duties. Now, anytime someone needs to create a report, check on outstanding actions, or get summaries of what has been done, it's easy.
The information is available to everyone one who needs it, in the same form. If documents were stuck on one computer hard drive, someone might not remember who had control of it. Fast Track makes sure information is consistently available. That's especially helpful when the mine gets an unscheduled visit from a regulatory organization.
"When it comes to that point, you can always prepare yourself with the use of this software because everything will have been put together in an organized manner. It doesn't take a lot of time to prepare yourself if you have the system in place," the coordinator said.
These areas have to be put into Fast Track by the administrator depending on the scope of safety-health-environmental operating system or standards in place.
Stakeholders, most of whom will be managers, will have to advise the administrator on what areas or aspects to be included in Fast Track. Use of Fast Track will be as good as the amount of commitment in updating the status of those areas, each time an internal audit is completed.
It's important, though, for the managers to stay abreast of the standards that any auditing organization might be looking for. They have to be established in Fast Track if the software is to do its job properly. As long as that's done, however, it is easy for any inspector to quickly learn what has and has not been done at the mine, plus any findings or recommendations.
Installation and use
The mine's remote location meant that the staff had to handle its own installation of Fast Track.
But Fast Track technical director Greg Carroll said this is not recommended procedure but it demonstrated what can be done under unusual circumstances by people with no special training.
"What they ended up with is as good as what I would have done if I had been involved in the implementation," Carroll said
"They basically did about 90 percent of the work, with a few e-mails to me for help."
The mine's IT department was able to handle it with no major issues, the coordinator said. After that, Fast Track's corporate headquarters in Australia was able to help out on how to get the most out of the software.
"The system isn't as complicated as one might think," he said.
"The first time you start using it, you might find it complicated because it is the first time you've seen it. But as you use it you soon become familiar with the operations that we are dealing with."
The annual support subscription means that the Syama mine can count on help when it's needed. All support requests are logged and given a number and estimated response time, but the mine has not had any trouble resolving issues.
Working in Mali means that the software is only on the mine's own internal systems. If any of the managers want someone back at Resolute Mining headquarters to see some information, it is sent over the Internet, often as a zip file.
However some highly useful information may be posted or published on the company intranet, which would then enable others to access it, but of course not via Fast Track.
The mine's coordinator recommended that customers arrange for about five days of training on Fast Track administration.
"Once that is done, in the future you are just fine-tuning some areas that require clarification, or if you want to modify or customize something to suit the existing requirements or situation," he said.
With the Fast Track system in place, the managers do not waste time on unnecessary tasks, and they do not have to worry about forgetting an important deadline. Documents are centrally located and simple to find, reports are easy to generate, attach, or print out or export in any format.
Perhaps the best endorsement of Fast Track is the fact that the mine not only continues to use the software, but is expecting to obtain and operate on an upgraded version by the second half of 2013.