Wireless mesh sensor networks are the best choice for modern underground mines.
Modern underground mines often extend deeper and wider than their older predecessors. Advances in engineering practice and technology have mostly facilitated this trend. Shafts can be sunk deeper and tunnels made longer than in the past because the techniques and equipment used by mine engineers are so much better than before. This expanded scope is, however, not limited exclusively to newer mines. In some cases, the same measures are applied to older mines to increase production, yield, and profitability.
Monitoring Instrumentation and Risk Reduction
Whether they are in a new or old mine, the excavation and use of deep shafts and long tunnels is accompanied by the risk of collapse, cave in, fire, explosion, and unbreathable air due to the presence of noxious, toxic, and possibly even flammable or explosive gasses.
To minimize these risks, mine engineers use a variety of geotechnical, hydrological, ground temperature, air quality, and other monitoring instruments. These instruments provide valuable information that can be used to determine when a dangerous situation is developing within the mine, enabling workers to take proper precautions.
Data Collection and Use
Most monitoring instruments in use in modern mines contain electronic sensors, as this makes them more accurate than older instruments that are purely manual or mechanical in nature.
Usually, these instruments also have some form of electronic readout head to facilitate easy collection of data, making them ideal for connection to wireless, battery-powered nodes that link together to form a comprehensive, wireless mesh sensor network.
Typically, the wireless nodes share and move the real-time, accurate data obtained from monitoring instruments and sensors, via the wireless nodes, to an ethernet gateway, where the information enters the mine’s LAN network and moves to a central point for assimilation and analysis.
This process is facilitated by the installation of a mine-wide control system, e.g. the world-class solutions from Newtrax, which includes all the hardware and software required to gather, assimilate, and display data. Active alarms can be set to provide alerts as soon as predefined safety levels are reached or exceeded, making a system like this an incredibly powerful early warning system.
The combination of easy access to accurate, real-time data and an early-warning system gives mine engineers the tools they need to effectively monitor all areas and aspects of the mine, and to make good decisions and take the right action if a potentially dangerous situation develops.
Advantages of a Wireless Mesh Sensor Network
Wireless mesh sensor networks are highly efficient and have many advantages over more traditional cable-based networks, including:
- Simple, cost-effective, installation – No spend on cabling, and no need for labour-intensive installations that are expensive, time-consuming, and disruptive.
- Rapid deployment – Whole areas can be connected in a matter of hours vs. the days or even weeks it can take to install a comparable cable-based network.
- Robustness and a long infrastructural life cycle – No cables to snag, break, corrode, become brittle, or underperform as they age
- Minimal maintenance requirements and low risk of downtime – Nodes are simple, easy to protect, and powered by long-life batteries
- Easy scalability – Extra instruments can be easily added, even in hard-to-access or remote parts of the mine, and nodes automatically join the network once installed within range of other nodes
Read this article for more information about how a wireless mesh sensor network works and why it makes sense for every underground mine to have one.