One of the key requirements of operating a safe, productive and profitable mine is a comprehensive monitoring program. Proper monitoring creates the data and insight that allow engineers to visualize exactly what is happening in all areas of the mine – this is critical for both open-pit and underground mines, regardless of the mining method. Accurate and timely data from operational areas drives effective decision-making for any mine.
Having the right information, in the right hands, at the right time not only helps mines uncover potential issues, but it also allows them to react quickly to any developing situation that has the potential to threaten the safety of miners, cause damage to vehicles or other equipment, or disrupt production. Using an array of sensors and monitoring instruments deployed in key areas of the mine – and connected to a reliable, purpose-built communications network – is the best way to gather the required data.
Some key monitoring areas are:
- Geotechnical. Constantly keeping tabs on the status and behaviour of all geological structures, highwalls, backs/roofs, ribs/sidewalls, stopes, working faces, etc. is vital. Extensometers, contractometers, instrumented cable bolts and other geotechnical monitoring instruments from Mine Design Technologies (MDT), the world’s leading maker of instruments for the mining industry, are ideally suited for this purpose.
- Hydrological. Water can be a brutal enemy to safe mining. Ensuring regular feedback on water levels and pore pressures using instruments such as vibrating wire piezometers from RST Instruments is critical to effective dewatering programs. These instruments are also effective for montiroing tailings dams. And, when combined with Total Earth Pressure Cells, they can also be used to monitor the mining backfill process.
- Environmental. Toxic and flammable gasses are a very real and constant danger in underground mines. However, this threat can be effectively monitored and controlled by installing gas detection instruments and control systems from CONSPEC Controls, internationally recognized as a leader in environmental monitoring, gas detection and ventilation management (ventilation on demand).
- Communications. Getting the data to the right place at the right time is critical. Without the right network infrastructure, even the best instrument or sensor can fail to deliver on its promise. RAMJACK promotes the best-of-breed approach to communication infrastructure, ensuring the right technology is applied to the right application. Sensor network solutions like MineHop by Newtrax (underground) and Loadsensing by Worldsensing (on surface) are purpose-built for real-time, automated remote monitoring. Broadband communication using LTE from Metstech (underground) or wireless mesh technology from FluidMesh (on surface) is capable of communicating massive data sets quickly and efficiently.
Another powerful monitoring asset that is becoming increasingly popular with progressive mines is contracting some or all mine monitoring functions to a specialist, off-site entity, like the RAMJACK Remote Operations Centre (rROC).
The rROC offers a cost-effective solution by making shared use of expert professionals and solves the problem many mines face of finding people with the right skills, knowledge, and experience who are willing to live on site at remote operations.
Through rROC, RAMJACK can monitor anything from remote sensors to operator fatigue to vehicle health and fleet management systems. With 24/7 operations already set up in our Johannesburg office, scaling up and down is easy and cost effective, and the associated knowledge transfer programs ensure that mine resources are continuously upskilled as part of the solution.