Produced by Bobby Meehan
Headquartered in Idaho, Small Mine Development (SMD) is a leading underground mining contractor. Since 1982, the company has earned a prominent reputation for building and operating some of the largest underground mines in the United States, as well as for being a leader in productive and innovative mining solutions.
Similar to their approach to mining, the company is building a safety-based culture by integrating tried-and-true methods developed by major mining companies and creating new approaches to the idea.
Through the years, Small Mine Development has developed a comprehensive approach to mining operations. The company, which maintains an excellent working relationship with both their client and regulatory agencies, understands the strict policies and requirements in the mining industry and continues to adopt and comply with the policies for each specific job.
One of the many ways SMD provides new solutions is through its expertise. The company’s workforce, which includes years of experience in various stages of mining activities, helps SMD implement cutting edge tactics and initiatives into operations.
“We bring specialized skills and expertise to the table for our clients,” says Keith Jones, General Manager of Small Mine Development. “As a mining contractor, we provide customized solutions for mining projects.”
According to Jones, projects sometimes require the need for customized solutions such as equipment needs, and many companies aren’t versed in that aspect.
“Sometimes you have to modify machines and build your own gear. We’ll work with the manufacturers to upgrade equipment and provide new additions and solutions to equipment. In the past, we’ve worked with clients in implementing new initiatives such as bio diesel to improve operations.”
Building a culture of safety
As a leader in mining solutions, SMD is more than just a contractor. The company employs roughly 400 members across the organization and is committed to cultivating a workplace free of injuries and occupational illness. The company actively strives to uphold its motto—The most important job you have is to go home safe and uninjured at the end of your shift— and has implemented a rejuvenated approach to do so.
Launched in 2011 by Newmont Mining, the Safety Journey is a program that describes a company’s safety culture in terms of a journey. The stages range from simple awareness of safety issues to full integration where it’s simply how business is conducted. It provides tools for changing a safety culture within an organization and is meant to be an employee-driven program aimed at ensuring workplace safety.
A key piece of the program is Vital Behaviors. There are six sources of influence and to incorporate lasting change, at least three to four of the six specific behaviors must be affected to facilitate lasting change. Employees are asked to consider their actions in terms of the motivations and abilities to ensure that their actions are aligned with safe work practices. Workers are asked to consistently choose the Vital Behaviors that could have an impact on the job’s safe outcome.
“The Safety Journey program is essentially a mechanism to build a company culture based on safety,” says Jones. “The program integrates safety management training and leadership programs to achieve that culture.”
The company’s safety accolades speak for themselves:
2013 – Nevada Mining Association’s Underground Operations, Small Category (20-99 employees), First Place at Starvation Canyon Mine. Crews here worked 82,000 hours injury free in 2013.
2013 – Nevada Mining Association’s Underground Operations, Small Category (20-99 employees), Third Place at the Lee Smith Mine. Crews here worked 185,000 hours with one injury for a Reportable Rate of 1.09 in 2013.
2012 – Sentinels of Safety Winner for the Small Underground Metal Group at the Fire Creek project. A total of 45,715 hours were worked injury free.
2011 – Sentinels of Safety Winner for the Small Underground Metal Group at the Fire Creek project. The portal pad, infrastructure, portal and 2,000 feet of drifting were completed while working 27,250 hours.
According to Jones, the program has helped SMD achieve the skills within its management and workforce to establish a solid company culture centered on safety.
“The program initiates employees to speak up and ask questions as well as build leadership qualities. The program has enhanced our safety record in 2012 and 2013 and Newmont was gracious enough to allow us to make it our own.”
In addition to the Safety Journey initiative, SMD incorporates a number of in-house initiatives. These include: High-Level Risk Assessments on various tasks the company encounters; Inspecting work areas to ensure areas are completed utilizing its 5-point safety system, including a field level risk assessment; and holding daily lineout meetings to discuss immediate on-site job concerns as well as conducting weekly in-depth “tool box” meetings for each member.
Employees and vendors
As well as creating a company culture based on safety, the company is dedicated to being an employer of choice. SMD has worked with a large amount of people in the mining industry and is arguably one of the best mining contractors to work for.
The company, which was recently given the bronze award for best employer in Northern Nevada, believes its employees and vendors are a vital part of their success.
“We value their support and sometimes we’re pretty demanding,” says Jones. “Vendors and employees are a key part to our success. We can’t do what we do without them.”