Greens Creek Mine wins technology award

What’s called a “max haul” truck drives the Greens Creek road. Photo courtesy, Mike Satre, Hecla Greens Creek Mine.

Juneau’s Greens Creek Mine has won an award for its traffic safety system at the Admiralty Island operation.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – or NIOSH – has given the company a Technology Innovations Award for the collision avoidance system used between the mine site in Greens Creek Valley and the two ports at Hawk Inlet and Young Bay.

Government relations manager Mike Satre says all the traffic for surface operations travels on a single lane road, which winds through the forest.  It’s about 9 miles from the ship-loading facility to the mine and about 5 miles from the ferry dock, where the 150 day-shift workers take buses to the mine.

In the past, traffic was managed by radio communication among drivers.  About two years ago, the company put in the avoidance system, which uses GPS as well as radio.

Satre describes the system:

“As the driver is driving, they’re doing the normal radio call outs, but as they approach a vehicle within a couple hundred yards, the system starts lighting up and saying, ‘light vehicle ahead or truck ahead’, and there’s an indicator on the dash as to what direction that vehicle in coming.”

Satre says the idea for the new system came from Greens Creek employees.

NIOSH is the research, scientific and technical arm of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  Associate Communication Director Fred Blosser says given the risk of collision on mining roads, especially in poor weather conditions, the agency found the new system simple yet robust.

“It provides operators  of vehicles with better awareness of potential for collision and provides a warning through a voice annunciation system is there’s a risk of a collision,” Blosser says.

Similar technology is used in aviation, but Blosser says it is novel for the mining industry.

Greens Creek is a silver, gold, lead and zinc mine owned by Hecla Mining Company headquartered in Idaho.  Greens Creek employs about 400 people.




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