The underground mining industry is currently in the midst of a technology shift, with company visions statements beginning to reflect a more digitised, remote and autonomous landscape
The realisation of achieving these newly formed visions has sparked widespread demand for more advanced digital content and capability, such as live machine data, digital and real-time task management, digital air/gas monitoring, live geotechnical monitoring, drainage monitors and advanced control systems.
However a predictable bottleneck in this process is evident as we see traditional operational support systems failing to meet the requirements needed to gain any true value – large scale value is driven by higher bandwidth industrial communication networks and reliable awareness technologies.
While the technology capability for high bandwidth industrial communication networks and reliable awareness technologies has existed for some time (evident in other industries), their implementation has been relatively unfeasible for most underground miners, with cost effective, operationally suitable and maintenance friendly communications technologies appearing to be few and far between.
With advances in technology however, coupled with a continual demand from the underground mining sector, technology and communications providers are now producing systems capable of meeting the demands of underground digitisation, for much more affordable prices – something that is creating a real technological buzz within the underground community
Over the past 12 months Minetec has been focused on the research and development of an innovative product that integrates WASP technology (used in Minetec’s sub-metre asset tracking products) with a mine specific, high bandwidth data communication network.
The integration is set to fuse the capabilities of the latest in 802.11 Wi-Fi, 802.3 Fibre/Ethernet networks with Minetec’s WASP sub-metre positioning sensor network (underground GPS) to produce a single network infrastructure that allows seamless integration between data communications and high precision location systems underground.
The integrated capability will negate the need for mining companies to purchase two independent systems, thus signifying a reduction in capital outlay, maintenance demand and interoperability issues that have been experienced in the past.
With a predicted cost of roughly half that of an equivalent industrial Wi-Fi network, be sure to look out for Minetec’s latest underground communications technology, Wi-Fi WASP, due for release in 2018