wireless networks in mining

Whether a mining operation is dealing with an earthquake, an accidental blast, or a miner that is identified as missing during the process of shift clearance, cutting down the time of search and rescue operations saves lives and prevents the loss of production.

The installation of Wireless Network Systems in underground and open-pit mines is a noteworthy technological advancement in this area, significantly improving the chances of safe recovery of missing persons after a mining incident.

Three Ways to Install Wireless Networks for Mine Safety Applications 

wireless networks for mine safety

Profitek’s Minelert is one of a few companies worldwide who have managed to successfully install Wireless Network Systems in surface and deep mining, making it possible to pinpoint lost persons in an instant  – even in deep mining systems. 

Different techniques can be employed to successfully install underground wireless networks:

Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

The installation of this network in mine shafts is done by connecting to an underground OTN backbone node. This OTN Wireless network can provide coverage for approximately 2.5 km (1.5 mile), an inclusion of eleven hops.

A challenge that arises in the use of Wireless Distribution System (WDS) as method of communication between Access Points, is that bandwidth is halved for every hop. In theory, the use of IEEE 802.11g standard will reduce bandwidth to zero after 6 to 7 hops. Mine safety appliance manufacturer Profitek’s Minelert, in partnership with the Access Point manufacturer’s developers, was able to overcome this bandwidth reduction by making changes to the firmware. With the tweak in firmware in place, an achievement of 18Mbps was made possible throughout the system, even after 11 hops.

Profitek’s Minelert has found Wireless Distribution Systems to be a reliable technology for underground mine systems, especially for the use of VoWiFi (Voice over WiFi) applications.Profitek’s Minelert WDS installations have stood the test of time, with the only downtime experienced with the service taking place during power failures and a fall of ground which interfered with Line of Sight. The same system was also deployed strategically on the surface to extend communication of the VoWiFi handsets to this area.

Wireless Mesh Network (WMN)

In 2010 Profitek’s Minelert successfully installed a Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) at Anglo Platinum’s Bathopele shaft in Proof of HDD Capacity (POC). Three strikes were covered from the Waiting place to the Face, achieving approximately 95% coverage of each area.

The shaft requirements called for data transmission from vehicles as well as voice communication in a room and pillar environment. The sections where the POC was installed was Low Profile (LP) and Extra Low Profile (XLP). Profitek’s Minelert was able to achieve coverage of distances of up to 180m (590 ft) from the Access Point to the Face, in the XLP section where Line of Sight (LoS) was almost non-existent. Forward moves were planned and executed with great care and accuracy, to ensure minimum interruption of service.

Through this implementation Profitek’s Minelert proved that it was possible to implement VoWiFi communication, vehicle-to-vehicle data transfer and wireless coverage to the face in both LP and XLP environments.

Fiber Optic Infrastructure with Hotspots

Profitek’s Minelert has installed close to 100 km (62 mile) of underground conventional- and blownfiber backbone with IEEE 802.11g hotspots, at numerous AngloGold Ashanti sites in South Africa. Various Wireless Controllers have been installed to configure and administrate the growing amount of Access Points.

There are currently around 300 Access Points in deployment in both underground and surface mine shafts. These surface Access Points provide infrastructure for voice communication and data communication for third party vendors on multiple VLANed SSID networks. Tagging and tracking information is also transmitted over the industrial network infrastructure.

Underground Mine Safety