“During this period, we closely monitor the conditions each day with an early warning system that tracks storm indicators, such as the distance of lightning strikes in the region,” said Marcelino Budini, Superintendent of Occupational Health & Safety, Quebrada Blanca.
Our Quebrada Blanca Operations is located in one of the driest deserts in the world, the Tarapacá region of Northern Chile, but it is exposed to an annual phenomenon that brings powerful storms from the Amazon to the region. Every summer, masses of moist air combine with cold temperatures to create high-pressure conditions that cause heavy rainfall, snow, thunder and lightning.
Certain risks, such as these extreme weather conditions, have the potential to become emergencies if not managed properly. That’s why we are focused on taking measure to mitigate risks and prepare for potential emergencies.
A Safe Approach
To keep employees and the operation safe in the event of an incoming storm, Quebrada Blanca activates Operation Altiplanic Winter, an emergency preparedness system of alerts and safeguards for adverse weather conditions that are operated annually from December to March.
At the operation, all workstations have designated shelter locations, and during the extreme altiplanic winter conditions, vehicles and other heavy equipment also function as safe shelter areas. Another fundamental part of the system involves road maintenance during storms in order to protect vehicles from slippery conditions and ensure directional signposts remain in their correct locations.
The operation uses advanced technology to predict altiplanic winter conditions, including magnetic wave detection that allows for greater precision when forecasting thunderstorms. The equipment uses photovoltaic panels mounted on a vehicle in order to read conditions at different parts of the site. Combined with the other meteorological data available, a detailed local forecast is produced that drives the preventive alerts.
Operation Altiplanic Winter has equipped Quebrada Blanca with the skills and knowledge to act in a timely and appropriate manner, should an adverse storm occur. Identifying and preparing for hazards before they take place has the ability to drastically reduce any negative outcomes, such as employee accidents, environmental deprivation, or damage and slowdown to the mining operation itself.
Teck recognizes that emergency planning is an ongoing process of enhancement and seeks to continuously improve upon Operation Altiplanic Winter, as well as other emergency response plans, to further mitigate risks. This training is in addition to a variety of other emergency response plans, trainings, and exercises implemented to ensure our operations are prepared for any situation.
First Published on February 14, 2017