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Maintaining Communications with Miners Trapped Behind a Fall of Ground by Using Newtrax Systems

Most mine owners and operators have comprehensive mine safety management programs in place and do everything possible to keep their mines safe. However, there are always risks associated with deep-level underground mining.

One of these risks is a partial or total isolation of a part of the mine due to a fall of ground. In most cases, these events are unexpected, and even when there is a warning given, there is not always time to get all workers safely to the surface before a fall of ground leaves them trapped.

Two cases in the last few years where miners were trapped behind a fall of ground come to mind:

  • The fall of ground incident in August 2010 at the San José copper and gold mine near Copiapó in northern Chile that left 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days
  • A shaft collapse at Impala Platinum’s mine in Rustenburg, South Africa that left two miners trapped inside the mine for several days

In these situations, the first priority is establishing contact with the trapped miners to establish what state they are in – mentally and physically. Information from the miners can help pinpoint their location, give them reassurance that help is on the way and let people on the surface know what conditions are like in the area — invaluable data for mine rescuers.

However, establishing this contact can be a challenge. In the case of the Chilean incident, it took 17 days before first contact was established.

In cases like this, a mine fitted with a comprehensive MineHop™ communications backbone by Newtrax has a major advantage. Underground hard rock mines using Newtrax technology utilize MineHop – a self-healing network based on independent, battery-powered wireless nodes.  With MineHop, in the event of an emergency, communication texting devices on vehicles and in refuge areas underground will still operate, presenting a huge advantage over traditional underground communication networks.

If the cable-based backhaul link to the surface is severed during the incident, communication can be re-established by dropping in a NewTrax Post-Accident Network Probe from surface or another mining level via a small, specially bored 2” hole or via any existing opening, e.g. a ventilation shaft, electrical or service hole, etc. This probe will automatically become part of the underground network and serve as a new data backhaul.

The probe does not need to be dropped directly in the area where trapped miners are located – if it is dropped within 50 – 150m of any MineHop wireless node, it will be able to gather and send to the surface date from the entire network.

Contact us now to find out how using Newtrax systems in your mine can enhance mine safety management, making it a safer place and helping to ensure communication with miners in the case of a fall of ground incident.