mine rescue technologyThe November 2015 release of the film The 33 brings us a dramatic retelling of the 2010 Chilean mining accident. Based on the real events surrounding the incident the film tells of the 69 day ordeal of thirty-three miners (The 33) and their families as the men remained trapped 700 meters underground in the San José copper-gold mine. While the miners were able to access an underground shelters after the collapse of the main tunnel on August 22, they soon discover that their radio is useless, the medical kit is empty, the required ladders are missing from ventilations shafts and the emergency food supply is minimal. The trapped miners manage to attach a note to an exploratory drill to announce their survival as well as location, but it wasn’t until 69 days later, on October 13 that the final miner was rescued.

Network Technology for Rescue Missions

The Chilean mining disaster concluded with a miracle ending for the 33 due to the intervention of the government, despite the mine company’s unwillingness to attempt rescue as well as their notorious history of safety violations. Many international mining companies have taken heed of the high risk of fatalities characteristic of incidents such as earthquakes and accidental mine blasts and have decided to do mining differently.

With the increased availability of network technology tailored for rugged mining environments (underground and surface mining), these mining companies are commissioning the installation of industrial Ethernet networks to enhance safety in their operations.

By installing underground WiFi that monitors and connects underground and surface personal, applications such as lost persons detection systems as well as real-time voice communications can be implemented even in deep mining systems.

Mobile Voice Communications

Mobile voice communication is enabled through the integration of mobile handsets as well as PA (Public Announcement) systems with a specialised industrial network infrastructure. When new generation network technology such as Wireless Mesh Networks has been employed, Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) communication can be achieved even with almost non-existent Line of Sight (LoS).

Real-time voice communication is one of the best methods to coordinate an effective emergency response in rugged mining environments. This voice communications technology allows the command centre and rescuers to issue instructions in real-time, and mine workers to provide feedback and information regarding changes in their condition.

Lost Persons Detection Systems

As we know, “When a mine emergency strikes, every second counts. Well-equipped and trained rescue teams and effective communications can make the difference between life and death for miners who are trapped or injured” (Mine Safety and Health Administration of the US department of labor).

Lost Persons Detection Systems improves the efficiency and speed of rescue missions through technology that connects individual active tags with a reliable industrial Ethernet backbone. Tag controllers are placed in various zones across the mining operation in order to sense the location and movement of workers and log the information with the master controller. Should a mine worker be found missing during regular shaft clearance procedures or at the time of a mining incident, the master controller pinpoints the location of every individual within minutes.

The Life and Death Difference

mine rescue operations

It’s not often that Hollywood brings us stories about workplace safety, and it is also not every disastrous mining incident that has a miraculous ending. For mining operations to achieve successful outcomes after incidents of disaster, health and safety programs need to be in place to ensure that rescuers are fully prepared, trained and equipped with the most effective technology.




To learn more about mine rescue technology that saves lives, download our eBook on Lost Persons Detection Systems by clicking on the image below.

Underground Mine Safety