by Steven D. Botts
Big mines require large quantities of fuel to operate and chemicals for mineral processing. In mountain areas, strict precautions are needed to ensure safe transport of such substances along steep, winding roads. Past transport accidents caused spillage of cyanide, mercury and other chemicals, prompting public outcries and strong media reactions. Safe transport of materials has become a priority for mining companies.
High in the Andean mountains in Peru, Compañía Minera Antamina, together with other nearby mines, has introduced a Safe Road Transportation initiative as an integral part of a wider company programme addressing the environment, health, safety and social responsibility.
A specialised contractor monitors the transportation units of all companies and provides support if an emergency occurs along the route. Hazardous materials trucks travel in convoy, escorted by vehicles that carry equipment to deal with any incident. All drivers and supervisors are trained to respond to an emergency. The trucks are inspected for tire tread depth, number of retreadings, daily scheduled preventive maintenance, first-aid kits, and equipment to control spills. All transporters are certifi ed, and the route has been evaluated by experts who examine any bridge crossings, proximity of homes and villages, areas with stray animals, sharp turns with steep gradients, etc. Trucks and containers display UN substance codes and hazard identifi cation.
The programme includes outreach to roadside communities based on the international APELL process. Communities receive education in fi rst-aid treatment, how to recognize hazardous materials, and basic actions in case of accident. The communities have a positive attitude towards this training.
Outreach to government organisations has also started to achieve progress. An important achievement is the creation of an APELL Committee that helps representatives of government and industry build up their mutual capabilities in safety and emergency management.
Incidents along the extended transport route from the coast to mines are decreasing in frequency and gravity. In 2004 there were only four minor incidents, causing neither physical injury nor environmental damage, and only minor damage to property. But safety management never sleeps, and constant vigilance is required to push performance ever closer to our common goal of zero accidents.
Steven D. Botts is Vice-President of Compañia Minera Antamina, Peru and responsible for Environment, Health, Safety and Community Relations.