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Title: Underground communications and tracking technology advances

Abstract

As the June 2009 deadline set by the MINER Act grows near, several technologies have emerged as possible options for communicating and tracking underground coal miners in the event of an emergency or disaster. NIOSH is currently deciding how best to invest $10 million assigned by Congress under an Emergency Supplementary Appropriations Act (ESA) to research and develop mine safety technology. Medium and ultra high frequency (UHF) systems seem to be leading the pack with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags serving as the tracking system. Wireless mesh systems can serve as a communications infrastructure and they can do much more. Even more technologies continue to emerge, such as inertial navigation tracking systems. Mines are discovering the wonders of modern voice and data communications underground. Still no one know if it is economically practical to design a system that will function after a coal mine explosion. From the nineteen systems submitted to MSHA's request for information (RFI), six systems were selected that represented most of the technologies that had been proposed: the Rajant Breadcrumb, Innovative Wireless, Concurrent Technologies/Time Domain, Transtek, Gamma Services, and the Kutta Consulting systems. They were tested at CONSOL Energy's McElroy mine in April 2006. MSHA felt thatmore » all of those systems needed a significant amount of work before they were ready for use in a underground coal mining environment. The agency continues to work with these, and other manufacturers, to assist in arranging for field demonstration and then to gain MSHA approval.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
20892668
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Coal Age; Journal Volume: 112; Journal Issue: 3
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
01 COAL, LIGNITE, AND PEAT; UNDERGROUND MINING; COMMUNICATIONS; USA; OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY; US MSHA; US NIOSH; COAL MINERS; ACCIDENTS; EMERGENCY PLANS; SAFETY STANDARDS; GHZ RANGE; MHZ RANGE

Citation Formats

Fiscor, S. Underground communications and tracking technology advances. United States: N. p., 2007. Web.
Fiscor, S. Underground communications and tracking technology advances. United States.
Fiscor, S. Thu . "Underground communications and tracking technology advances". United States. doi:.
@article{osti_20892668,
title = {Underground communications and tracking technology advances},
author = {Fiscor, S.},
abstractNote = {As the June 2009 deadline set by the MINER Act grows near, several technologies have emerged as possible options for communicating and tracking underground coal miners in the event of an emergency or disaster. NIOSH is currently deciding how best to invest $10 million assigned by Congress under an Emergency Supplementary Appropriations Act (ESA) to research and develop mine safety technology. Medium and ultra high frequency (UHF) systems seem to be leading the pack with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags serving as the tracking system. Wireless mesh systems can serve as a communications infrastructure and they can do much more. Even more technologies continue to emerge, such as inertial navigation tracking systems. Mines are discovering the wonders of modern voice and data communications underground. Still no one know if it is economically practical to design a system that will function after a coal mine explosion. From the nineteen systems submitted to MSHA's request for information (RFI), six systems were selected that represented most of the technologies that had been proposed: the Rajant Breadcrumb, Innovative Wireless, Concurrent Technologies/Time Domain, Transtek, Gamma Services, and the Kutta Consulting systems. They were tested at CONSOL Energy's McElroy mine in April 2006. MSHA felt that all of those systems needed a significant amount of work before they were ready for use in a underground coal mining environment. The agency continues to work with these, and other manufacturers, to assist in arranging for field demonstration and then to gain MSHA approval.},
doi = {},
journal = {Coal Age},
number = 3,
volume = 112,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Mar 15 00:00:00 EDT 2007},
month = {Thu Mar 15 00:00:00 EDT 2007}
}
  • Today, when it comes to having systems to communicate with track and locate underground coal miners, mining companies have many equipment choices, as a direct response to the USA's 2006 MINER Act and the West Virginia Legislative Rule 56-4-8. Coal Age spoke to several companies about their leaky feeder and purely wireless systems which are either approved by the US MSHA or have been submitted for approval. The article gives details of: a UHF leaky feeder system developed by Pillar Innovations, designed to exit a mine at multiple points and then tie the leads back together on the surface; themore » Venture/Helicomm MineTrader system for tracking, monitoring and emergency messaging for mines; Rajant Corp.'s BreadCrumb wireless system using battery-powered wireless access nodes that enable voice and data communications across a self-healing network; the SubterraCom Wireless Solution's communications systems; a wireless mesh peer-to-peer communications system and an ultra widebade (UWB)-base real-time location tracking system from L-3 Communications; and VHF and UHF leaky feeder amplifiers from Tunnel Radio. MSHA approved communications and tracking systems are tabulated. 11 photos., 1 tab.« less
  • MSHA addresses acceptable alternatives to wireless communications. In December 2008 they issued a draft program policy letter (PPL) that provided mine operators guidance in implementing two-way communication alternatives which include infrastructure underground to provide un-tethered communications with miners. The article was adapted from the December 2008 MSHA PPL on Communications & Tracking. The entire PPL may be accessed at http://www.msha.gov. 3 tabs.
  • New developments in underground mine communications include improved twisted-pair paging phones, selective paging phones and annunciator systems, multi-channel systems with data transmission capabilities, and wireless medium frequency radio systems.
  • The author describes twisted-pair paging phones, and multi-channel and wireless communication systems.
  • Underground mines are, typically, extensive labyrinths that employ many people working over an area of many square miles; extensive analysis of mine-communications systems has identified specific problem areas, in particular the excessive times required to locate key personnel underground, the inadequacy of existing phone systems in terms of capacity and privacy, and the inability to communicate with men on the move with wireless communications, as is taken for granted on the surface. A review is presented of the existing systems, the problem definition, and the various approaches that have been or are being investigated to solve these problems.