Wireless mining sensor networks are the latest step in the evolution of mine monitoring.
In order to continually monitor geological and geomechanical factors inside underground mines and assess potential safety and productivity risks posed by rapid or out-of-safe-range changes in these factors, many modern underground mines install a variety of geotechnical and related monitoring instruments. Some of the types of instruments commonly used for geotechnical monitoring are:
- Multi-Point Borehole Extensometers
- Instrumented Cable Bolts
- Spun-in Cable Bolts (Maclean Bolter)
- Ground Movement Monitors
- Thermistor Strings
In the past, monitoring instruments often contained a gauge or similar item to allow for data reading. Of course, this meant that a personnel member had to visit each instrument on a regular basis to read and manually record the data. This made gathering data a very slow process indeed.
Later on, many instruments contained a digital readout head, making the data easier to gather and more accurate (no risk of a user accidentally writing down a wrong reading). However, it was still necessary for a staff member to visit each instrument and gather information by connecting an electronic data gathering device, which would then be taken back to the engineering department and the data transferred to a PC.
Although this practice was a vast improvement on a totally manual system, it still left several problems unsolved:
- Manual data collection is very time and manpower intensive.
- There is a significant time delay between readings, delaying the spotting of trends and potentially dangerous movements.
- Because the data is only collected at wide intervals, the overall amount of information is limited.
- When a potentially dangerous situation develops, the only way to gather further data is to send personnel in to take more readings, exposing them to risk.
A fully wireless mining sensor network solves all of these problems. Data is collected automatically at pre-determined intervals, which can be shortened if a specific situation warrants it. This allows for large amounts of useful data from all over the mine or in a specific area to be gathered and acted on immediately, without needing to wait for a person to bring back information. There is also no need to place personnel members in danger, as a wireless mining sensor network allows for data to be collected remotely.
Click here to find out more about how wireless mining sensor networks work and why every underground mine should have one.