To keep an underground mine safe and productive, it is vital that the geological environment within the mine is monitored on an ongoing basis. This is done by deploying geotechnical and other monitoring instruments, as required, throughout the mine.
Of course, for the status of the mine to be monitored properly, the data produced by the instruments must be collected and put to good use.
When it comes to gathering data from the instruments, there are three basic choices:
- Manual Data Collection. This requires one or more mine staff members to move from area to area, recording information by hand as they go. This method of data collection is very labour-intensive and causes delays while mine engineers wait for all of the data to come in, so they can make decisions about safety and productivity issues.
- Automatic Collection of Data via Cable Network. This is a much more efficient way to collect data than the manual method. In this model, data is collected electronically in real-time and then sent via a network of cables to a central point for analysis.
- Automatic Data Collection via a Wireless Monitoring Network. Similar to the type of data collection mentioned in point 2 above, except in this case, data is fed into a wireless monitoring network and moved to a central point where it can be used by mine engineers.
Of these three options, using a wireless monitoring network has some key benefits:
- Long-Term Cost Savings, both in manpower to continually read instruments and bring back data and the cost of installing and maintaining many kilometres of networking cable.
- Lower Risk of Equipment Damage and Personnel Injuries. Long stretches of data cable inside the mine to move data from instruments can easily get snagged or otherwise damaged during normal mining operations. Likewise, staff members who have to move around a lot inside the mine to collect data run the risk of being injured.
- Data is Available Immediately. Using a wireless monitoring system means that all data is available to anyone connected to the network in real time.
- The Network is Easy to Scale Up. Because they are not dependent on long runs of cable (which take time to install), wireless monitoring networks can be easily scaled up to include new areas of the mine within a short space of time.