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Improving the security & safety of mining sites with 5G IoT smartlocks

Digital Keys cloud-based 5G IoT smart access control systems, including smart locks and APIs, improves security, safety, and efficiencies of mine sites while not requiring onsite mains power or equipment.



The safety, security, and productivity of mining operations rely heavily on tracking workers and controlling access around mining sites and equipment. However, it is important to maintain a balance between tracking benefits and worker privacy concerns, ensuring that tracking systems are used ethically and transparently.

Recently, the mining industry has increasingly adopted electronic access control systems due to their effectiveness in improving safety, enhancing security, and monitoring worker movements. These systems provide valuable data that can be used to optimize workflows, improve efficiency, and comply with regulatory requirements. They also ensure that only authorized workers have access to potentially hazardous areas and equipment, reducing the risk of accidents or injuries.

One of the primary reasons for tracking workers is to ensure their safety. By monitoring their movements and locations, companies can quickly identify and respond to safety concerns or emergencies. Real-time location data can help to identify inefficiencies and allow mining companies to make necessary adjustments.

However, the use of tracking systems, such as tech wearables and/or smartphone apps has been met with resistance from mining workers who are concerned about their privacy and data usage/storage. Mining companies must comply with privacy regulations and be transparent about their use of tracking systems to address these concerns.

In addition to tracking regulations, mining sites must have procedures and systems in place to manage access to assets, including the use of metal keys and mechanical locks. These regulations ensure that access to buildings, storage areas, equipment and vehicles in mining sites is properly controlled and managed, protecting workers and assets from unauthorized access and theft.


Despite efforts to improve safety and security on mine sites, work related injuries and theft continues to have a significant impact, leading to lost productivity and increased safety risks. According to a study by Ernst & Young, safety incidents alone cost the global mining industry $2.3 billion in direct costs in 2019, with an additional $3.3 billion in indirect costs related to lost productivity and production delays. In addition, security-related incidents, such as theft or sabotage, can cost mining companies tens of millions of dollars per year, and the industry as a whole can face losses in billions of dollars annually.


mine site cabinet
padlock on a minesite

Considerations and Challenges


Mining sites often rely on mechanical locks and metal keys for various purposes, including operating heavy equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, and trucks. These metal keys cannot be replaced by electronic access control systems, but cloud-connected lockboxes on vehicles can provide a secure alternative by automatically recording who has opened which lockbox to access a specific vehicle at what time. This eliminates the need for a designated worker to manage metal keys manually and reduces the risk of lost or stolen keys by not having to return them to a central location such as a site office miles away.


In addition to heavy equipment, metal keys are also used for controlling access to different buildings such as offices, control rooms, workshops, accommodation, and storage facilities for tools, equipment, and hazardous materials. However, replacing all the existing door hardware with typical electronic access control systems can be a challenge that requires a variety of electronic hardware and locks, and acess to mains power and or onsite Wi-Fi including mesh network infrastructure.


Accessing different areas within a large mining site can often be difficult for workers due to the vast size of sites and the presence of various buildings, vehicles, and storage areas. The lack of power and telecommunications to specific buildings and assets can also make it difficult for workers to perform their tasks efficiently and effectively. This makes it challenging to establish and maintain effective traditional electronic access control systems in those areas, leading to the need for manual monitoring of access, which can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.


To address these challenges, a flexible and connected electronic access control system is needed that improves security, safety, and efficiencies while not requiring onsite mains power or equipment, and which can rely on satellite or cellular networks, and is easy to install. Digital Keys cloud-based 5G IoT smart access control systems, including smart locks and APIs, can meet all of these requirements. Workers can access different areas of the mining site using mobile devices such as smartphones or time-sensitive PINs, which communicate with cloud-based servers to grant or deny access and record data. This data can be used along with AI and other technologies for things such as work scheduling and can be used to improve management efficiency and productivity.

miner looking at mobile phone



Installing Digital Keys 5G IoT smart access control systems on mine sites can have a positive impact on health, safety, and fatigue management, while also leading to cost savings and improved productivity for mining companies. For example our connected systems can help enforce safety protocols by restricting access to areas that require PPE with new gates and smart padlocks, preventing workers from entering unsafe areas. Workers can gain access to a certain restricted area by making a quick video call to an account administrator (in a head office thousands of kilometres away) who can verify they are wearing appropriate PPE and they can see the person and know if they have authorization to access the area, and then remotely unlock the gate or door by hitting one button in our Digital Keys asset management software. This can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Additionally, Digital Keys systems can streamline the process of granting access to the site or specific areas within the site with time-sensitive digital keys and automations, reducing the time and effort required for manual check-ins and monitoring. This, in turn, can lead to improved workflows and productivity.

Additionally, our systems can monitor worker movements and hours on the mine site. Mining companies can use our connected access control features, coupled with our big data analytics and AI to track a worker's current fatigue levels, based on their previous and current shift movements/activities, and limit access to certain areas or equipment protected by our 5G IoT smartlocks accordingly in real-time. By doing so, the access control systems can prevent overwork and reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents. This feature promotes better fatigue management practices, ensuring that workers are not endangered due to overexertion.

Our access control systems perform traditional electronic access tasks by ensuring that only authorized workers can access specific areas at specific times.  For example, a study by the South African mining company AngloGold Ashanti found that implementing an electronic access control system in one site led to a 50% reduction in theft incidents and a 30% reduction in accident rates, resulting in cost savings of over $1 million per year. Electronic access control systems restrict access to potentially hazardous areas such as blast sites, high voltage areas, or areas with exposure to harmful chemicals or dust. This reduces the risk of accidents or injuries, protects the health of workers, and leads to cost savings for mining companies by reducing the need for medical care, workers' compensation claims, and legal liabilities associated with accidents and injuries. In addition, our connected access control system helps prevent theft as it knows who opens which lock at what time, and has tapering alarms with audible alarms and instant notifications to managers phones. This can help prevent loss of valuable equipment and materials, reducing the need for costly replacements and repairs. This results in significant cost savings for mining companies, especially if theft or loss is a recurring problem on the site. 

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