Wireless monitoring in underground mines overcomes several infrastructural challenges.
Changing geological and hydrological conditions have always posed challenges for mine operators who need to do everything in their power to keep their mines safe and fully productive at all times.
The key to understanding and managing any potential risks posed by changing conditions within and adjacent to the mine is monitoring. Having the correct information at hand leads to better decision-making and more appropriate implementation of countermeasures where necessary.
In the past, this meant manually reading and recording of data from measuring instruments, a very labour-intensive and time-consuming process that also has the potential to disrupt production during data-gathering exercises.
However, due to the increasingly easy availability of hi-tech geotechnical instruments, electronic monitoring of ground and other conditions in and around the mine has now become the norm for many mine engineers. In some types of installation, though, this can mean personnel having to move around a lot in order to collect data from a vast array of instruments using hand-held data collection devices.
Fortunately, there is a far more efficient way to perform this type of monitoring: connect all of the monitoring instruments to a wireless network that allows data to be collected centrally.
One of the challenges that many mines face in wanting to switch over to a wireless monitoring network is that many shafts and tunnels aren’t equipped with existing wireless communications infrastructure (e.g. RF leaky feeder networks). This is especially true of newer areas of the mine, which may contain shafts and tunnels that are deeper and longer than ever before.
To keep pace with technology, mines are also using digital data solutions more and more. However, this presents similar problems, as it may not be feasible to cover the whole mine with a conventional LAN or Wi-Fi network.
A third complication is that the electrical infrastructure to power the sensors and related wireless equipment may not be available where required.
There is a solution that solves all of these problems: a wireless mesh network based on wireless nodes like the MDT-RTU. Because these devices are battery-powered, there is no need for electrical wiring (and a single set of batteries will typically last for up to three years).
Because each wireless node is standalone but can automatically communicate with any other node within range, these networks are very easy to install and can be rapidly scaled up as requirements change.
Each node can be connected to up to three geotechnical instruments, and data is moved from one node to the next until it reaches a network gateway that feeds it into the mine’s existing LAN network.
For maximum efficiency, geotechnical instruments, wireless nodes, and other associated hardware should be controlled and monitored by a comprehensive wireless monitoring system, like MineHop™ from Newtrax.
Once data is gathered, this system will process it and make it freely available to engineers in a range of easy-to-understand formats, leading to improved decision-making and better responses to potential risks and threats to the safety and productivity of the mine.
Engineers can access wireless monitoring data from the comfort and safety of their offices by using a standard PC or laptop, or even view it offsite by using the included MineHop™ web interface.