Technological Advances have Radically Improved Geotechnical Instruments
Mining, especially underground mining, is, by its very nature, a potentially hazardous activity. There is always the risk of a rock fall or tunnel collapse trapping miners underground. In addition to the safety hazards they pose, cave-ins and collapses can also cause major damage to mine property and mining equipment. Another problem caused by mining accidents is reduced production, and therefore revenue, while repairs are made and cleanup operations are undertaken.
Being able to monitor ground movement and anticipate potentially dangerous situations before they occur helps make mining more predictable, and therefore safer.
Geotechnical instruments have been used by miners for quite some time, but early instruments were mostly mechanically based and needed to be read manually using a caliper or other form of measurement gauge– a time-consuming and labour-intensive process.
Major advances in electronic technology, especially relating to the development of vastly improved sensors and manufacturing techniques, have made modern geotechnical instruments much more accurate, easy to install and simpler to read.
Networking, especially wireless mesh, has taken geotechnical monitoring into a whole new era. It is now possible to link hundreds (or thousands) of geotechnical instruments together using a wireless mesh network. These instruments can then be monitored from a central point, or even from a remote location, removing the need for manual data collection by engineering staff.
Some of the common geotechnical instruments in use in modern mines are:
- Extensometers, to measure displacement (e.g. MDT SMART MPBX)
- Instrumented Cable Bolts, to measure displacement, strain and load (e.g. MDT SMART Cable Bolt)
- Contractometers, to measure convergence and compression (e.g. MDT SMART Contractometer)
- Ground Movement Monitors, to measure general ground movement (single-point) (e.g. MDT SMART GMM100)
- Sloughmeters, to measure sloughing or caving (e.g. MDT Sloughmeter)