Technological development in the last few years has completely revolutionised many industries and changed the way certain activities are performed. Usually these changes are for the better and lead to businesses becoming more efficient, profitable, and responsive.
The underground mining industry is a very good example. Although the fundamentals of mining have changed very little in the last hundred years or so (i.e. extract large quantities of ore/drift, bring it to the surface, and process it to remove high value items like gemstones, precious metals and minerals), the way in which mining activities are performed has changed radically. Electronic control and monitoring systems are used in various ways within a mine to enhance productivity and increase profits. Advanced monitoring systems are also ideal for use as safety-enhancing tools.
The initial stage of this process is information gathering. Various types of geotechnical monitoring instrumentation devices are commonly used in mines to generate data, including extensometers (especially the borehole-mounted type), contractometers, sloughmeters, ground movement monitors, thermistor strings and others.
When connected to a central network, these various geotechnical monitoring instrumentation devices (each of which measures something different) form a powerful early-warning system, alerting mine engineers to out-of-the-ordinary movements in rock and soil deposits in and around the mine. This can trigger an investigation into the cause of the movement, and an assessment of what, if any, risk it poses. Appropriate action can then be taken to deal with any risks, ensuring extremely high levels of mine safety. Having the correct data at their fingertips helps mine engineers and managers make better decisions, and these better decisions lead to far safer mines.