Technical Services

Delivering change in an underground mine – an intro to Change Management

3 Mins read

Change Management is a large part of the puzzle for successfully rolling out and implementing new technologies, not just underground but across the working landscape. It is a term that I first heard when there was going to be a change in location of an underground tag board, a substantial change in working methodology for all within the mine. Yet it is something I now hear more and more in the mining landscape.

So for those of you, like a younger version of myself, who may be wondering what is Change Management or Management of Change (MOC) and how can it unlock vital steps to delivering projects?

“Management of change (MOC) is a systematic approach to organizational changes with the aim of ensuring the continued safety of the workforce throughout the process. These systematic processes ensures that the change is dealt with in a proactive fashion.”

Source: Wikipedia

Let’s break this down and use the example of a change of underground tag board location as a loose example. What could be some of the things that we look to do ahead of, and following the proposed change:

Understand the route cause and reason for change

Allowing the wider team in on the reasoning behind the change, and generally an increased workload for them, allows them to get behind an idea. The reasoning for a second tag board was to allow for independent firing, something which can dramatically improve development rates, if used correctly.

Engagement with workforce

The workforce often offers so many ideas and thoughts when actively engaged with. This could be as simple as chatting with the underground crew about several different areas that had been highlighted for the possible tag board location. Their intimate knowledge of the workings and the small nuisances that they encounter daily could allow them to play a part in site location.

Analysis of concept and feedback

If there is data available for the proposed project, then analyse it and review it in conjunction with the input from the workforce. An example may be that the ventilation data shows a spot in the mine that is easiest for new development for a tag board. However, the underground crew may have noted that this has a blind bend before the approach which could cause traffic issues in a busy decline.

Communicate and get buy-in

When the concept and analysis has been completed and the decision is made on execution of the change, communicate the reasonings on the decision to all stakeholders. The tag board may be in an area where traffic management hazards may arise but then put forward a change in radio channel below that mine area. This will allow communication to remain high in the lower area on the mine (this will then of course need further MOC input!) and allow for easier vehicle interactions.

Execute the change

Agree on a time, a plan of action and a list of success criteria for the team executing the body of work. This allows for the project to be completed as efficiently as possible and against a set of preconceived goals. With a tag board install this could involve new development, a change in procedures and additional training and tags being issued to all frontline staff. The timeline for this would all need to be mapped out and executed precisely.

Reinforce the change

Ensure that the change within the workplace has been adopted and is being followed. Ask for feedback in the days, weeks and months preceding the change and potentially adjust accordingly. The tag board follow up highlighted that there was a heavy vehicle issues at the start of shift due to multiple personnel tagging on at the same time. This was eventually alleviated by using a bus to collect workers at the change of shift and reducing the requirement for multiple heavy vehicles heading down in a convoy.

This simple work through may highlight several areas to focus on when thinking about instigating change in the underground environment. This could be something at a departmental level or with a wider scope in the working environment. One thing is for certain, a thorough knowledge of the processes, the knock-on effect and communication of any change is essential for success.


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