Reaching for the top

India’s Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL), the world’s leading zinc producer, has a big ambition: It wants to become No. 1 in the world when it comes to safety. To achieve its goal, the company relies on partners with a strong commitment to Environment, Health and Safety (EHS).


Hindustan Zinc’s Rampura Agucha mine is situated in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Known as the “Land of the Kings,” Rajasthan has not only a rich and varied flora but also a versatile industry.

Apart from being a big producer of textiles and agricultural products such as edible oils, it is pre-eminent in quarrying and mining. It has rich salt deposits and copper and zinc mines.

The biggest zinc mine in the world is the Rampura Agucha mine. The mine has been in production since 1990 and employs more than 2,500 people. Initially it was an open-pit mine, but over the years it has undertaken underground operation as well. The two operations run in parallel, and together they produce more than 6 million tonnes of ore annually.

Partners in safety
Beyond ensuring the production runs as it should, the mine’s top priority is strengthening its profile when it comes to Environment, Health and Safety (EHS).

“At Hindustan Zinc Limited, safety is the No. 1 priority,” says John Palmer, HZL general engineering manager, Rampura Agucha. The company recently employed DuPont as a consultant to help it implement world-best safety standards.

Safety – a core value

At Rampura Agucha, Sandvik follows many safety protocols. All new Sandvik employees undergo extensive training before entering the mines. Depending on the location and nature of work, everyone has to wear the minimum required gear: hardhat, goggles and safety shoes.

To help the customer run a safe operation, Sandvik educates HZL operators on how to use the machines safely without injuring themselves and harming the environment. They also clearly explain the safety features to the workers upon entering the mines.

“For Sandvik, safety is not only a priority, it’s part of our core values,” says Sudhakar Kalwapalli, Sandvik general EHS manager. “Our safety thinking not only helps our customers financially and legally, it also helps them to create a strong bond with their employees.”

An important part of this initiative involves working with partners that have a strong commitment to EHS.

“Sandvik brings the best in safety practices from around the world,” Palmer says. “We envision that the company will be a part of our team by bringing in good maintenance practices and also good safety features on equipment.”

High standards
Sandvik has supplied more than a dozen pieces of equipment to Rampura Agucha, including drills, underground loaders and trucks. The equipment has helped transform the mine into a modern and safe mechanized operation.

“The Sandvik equipment holds a very high standard, and that’s why we chose this equipment,” Palmer says. “The loaders we are using have the latest specifications. They have the ability to be used remotely, which means we can retrieve loaders in breakdown in a safe manner.”

Abhay Kumar Nalwaya, HZL associate vice president, Rampura Agucha underground mine, is equally enthusiastic about the equipment’s safety features, especially the trucks’ park-brake system.

”If the engine fails or anything goes wrong, the truck stops,” he says. ”It will not move. We really appreciate this safety feature.”

Another positive effect from using Sandvik equipment is the improvement in air quality in the underground mine. ”These trucks are running without giving me any foul air,” Nalwaya says.

Minimal dust shedding
Above ground, the challenge for HZL has been to find equipment with the right EHS features. Sandvik DP1524 surface drill was the solution.

“As far as the environment is concerned, the Sandvik drill’s built-in water injection system is very efficient and prevents dust shedding during drilling,” he says.

Rajeev Shrimali, associate general mine manager at HZL, adds, “While drilling, we’re also saving fuel in terms of metres, so environmentally it’s very eco-friendly.”

EHS protocols worth copying
L.S. Shekhawat, vice president and unit head HZL, is very happy with the safety record of Sandvik overall, saying the company is in line with the site’s requirements. ”We’re learning a lot from Sandvik and trying to implement their global standards on our site,” he says.

Nalwaya has the same impression as Shekhawat, saying there have not been any recent incidents, thanks to good practices followed by the Sandvik team at the mine.

”When they are on-site, they completely gear up with their personal protective equipment,” he says. ”They have their toolbox stocked and they take about five to 10 minutes to distribute the work. And they always explain the risks associated with the equipment before they start working. Wherever they work, they follow the required standards.”