Safety solutions in potash mining: wireless geotechnical monitoring
Because potash (potassium chloride or other water-soluble potassium compounds) occurs mostly in sedimentary rock, mining it can be a very tricky business. When soft-rock mining is undertaken, there is always a very real risk of collapse, whether conventional methods like room and pillar (continuous) or solution mining techniques are used. In addition, because carbon dioxide occurs naturally in potash, unbreathable air can become a safety hazard wherever potash is being mined.
To make sure that potash mines are kept safe, continuous geotechnical monitoring is usually required. This can be achieved by installing monitoring devices like extensometers, contractometers, instrumented cable bolts, ground movement monitors, and Sloughmeters to measure and track the status of the rock and earth in and around the mine, allowing for early detection of potentially hazardous movements and imminent collapses.
A gas monitoring system should also be installed to detect dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Of course, monitoring equipment like various geotechnical instruments is only useful if data can be easily collected and used to develop risk avoidance and management solutions. Due to the nature of most potash mines, manually collecting data from each instrument is neither feasible nor safe.
The best solution to this problem is to set up a wireless mesh network to which all of the geotechnical instruments are connected. This allows data to be automatically collected and moved via a series of robust, self-powered wireless nodes to the nearest network gateway. From this point, the data enters the mine’s LAN and can be accessed by mine engineers for analysis.