BHP Mitsubishi Alliance is trialing the use of virtual reality headsets to prepare miners for life underground at its Broadmeadow Mine in Queensland, Australia.

The technology allows miners to enter a safe, simulated Broadmeadow Mine and test their responses to hazards.

"Virtual reality will revolutionize the way underground miners are taught about safety," said Nathan Parsons, Manager for Special Projects at Broadmeadow Mine.

"Up until now, the only way you could truly understand what you're being taught is to actually experience it. Now, we can recreate real scenarios and put people in an immersive environment where they can learn hands on."

Parsons helped develop the program over the last 18 months. It allows users the option to be a shearer or  chock operator.

Virtual reality

David Thorpe, a longwall operator for more than 10 years, said the technology would benefit even the most experienced operators.

"This simulation is the best I've seen with everything looking exactly as it does underground” said Thorpe, who aided development. The only difference were the colours, he added.

Adding to the experience, the virtual reality technology allows users to move into hazardous zones you normally couldn't access. This makes for a more holistic training experience that allows users to better understand their working environment.

"Not only can we expose and train people who have never been underground to point out the potential dangers or risks, but the great thing about this technology is that the equipment is available 100% of the time day or night," Thorpe added.

Early feedback of the VR system has been positive, said Parsons. Operators using VR were retaining more information than when going through traditional teaching methods.

"Ultimately, we want a fully functional underground environment in which we can train all operators in before they actually step foot underground," he said.