Drilling in any environment is potentially hazardous but mineral exploration in remote locations, such as those encountered in Western Australia, presents additional risk factors.
There are hazards associated with the preparation of camps, work sites and drill pads, as well as those specific to the operation of drill rigs.
Western Australia’s code of practice for mineral exploration drilling encourages operators to develop site-specific solutions for the major hazard categories identified for the remote exploration environment, including:
- rotating and moving parts
- compressed air systems
- hydraulic systems
- hazardous substances and dangerous goods
- manual tasks
- working at height
- falling objects
- working in hot environments
- fatigue and mental wellbeing
- ionising radiation
- hot work
- extreme weather and bushfires
- light vehicle movement
- heavy vehicle movement
- remoteness of exploration
- natural gases
- existing workings
Further information on these topics is available in the code of practice and elsewhere on the departmental website in the safety section.
For more detailed information and useful links about exploration hazards in general, see Guidance about exploration hazards.
Glove box guide
A glove box guide for exploration and drilling is available for Western Australian companies. Based on the code of practice for mineral exploration drilling in Western Australia, the guide is designed to help manage operational risk by providing prompts for hazard identification and risk assessment.
Western Australian drillers should contact RSDComms@dmirs.wa.gov.au to request hard copies of the glove box guide for their vehicles.
Other guidance material
Additional resources that may assist in the risk management process for exploration drilling activities are listed below.
Managing the risks
The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines has produced QGN: Mineral exploration safety guidance note, which contains a variety of information on the types of control measures to consider for mineral exploration, including drilling.
Drill rig operation
Maintenance and tooling
Further information: In the past, pipe wrenches have been used inappropriately in hydraulic applications (e.g. to break RC drill rod joints) and this has led to serious breakout incidents. There is a detailed article about this topic on pages 20 and 21 of volume 21, number 2 of MineSafe magazine issued in October 2012.
Manufacturer's product safety alerts includes a warning pipe wrench use from a manufacturer.
You can search for mines safety bulletins and other safety alerts in the Publications and resources area and download them as a PDF.
Health and hygiene
There are a number of health and hygiene concerns from drilling. Drilling can also generate dust, intersect gas and fibrous minerals. It also involves the use of chemicals such as diesel and drilling muds, which need to be managed.
The Western Australian Department of Health has produced a Scoping Tool: Public health considerations for mine sites, exploration camps and construction villages that can be used to check items to be considered.
The mineral exploration audit is divided into three broad parts covering:
- overall safety and health management systems (Part 1),
- how these management systems are implemented on site and for operational activities in general (Part 2),
- drilling and other field activities in particular (Part 3).
Operators can select aspects relevant to the size and complexity of their operations, and the activities undertaken, and tailor the audit accordingly.
It is recommended that drilling contractors use at least Part 3 and parts of Part 2.
Below is a list of documents that you may find useful.