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South African Mines are Embracing Real-Time Monitoring of Geotechnical Instrumentation and Other Sensors

Within the international mining community, South Africa is known for the size and depth of its mines – with some of the deepest underground mines in the world located in the country.

Unfortunately, this increasing size, and especially depth, of mines brings with it some increase in risk. Fall of ground due to rock burst and other factors and challenges faced due to critical ground movement become more likely as mines expand and go deeper.

More and more progressive, responsible mine operators are realizing that the best way to minimize these risks is to intensively monitor ground movement, and to do it in real time using a persistent sensor network that incorporates geotechnical instrumentation and other monitoring devices connected to a wireless network that quickly and automatically moves data to a PC on the surface, or even in another location by using a cloud-based web/internet interface.

Using this form of monitoring system, engineers can monitor and “ping” geotechnical instrumentation devices like extensometers, contractometers, instrumented cable bolts and sloughmeters, as well as vibrating wire piezometers and other hydrology sensors, from the comfort of their offices or anywhere in the world where they have internet access.

These sensor networks also function as early warning systems by sounding the alarm to relevant people when predetermined safety thresholds have been breached.

To implement a world-class sensor network, all that is required is a series of critical real-time instruments (such as extensometers or piezometers) and a purpose-built data telemetry system.  The world’s leading suppliers of these sensor networks have turned to RAMJACK to support their efforts in Africa, Europe and the Middle East (EMEA).

Mine Design Technologies (MDT) is one of the world’s leading suppliers of geotechnical instrumentation and rock movement monitoring devices.  Newtrax and Worldsensing have each created purpose-built data telemetry systems that interface with MDT’s instruments for real-time information sharing.  Newtrax’s MineHop™ network was designed specifically to take data from underground sensors and bring it to surface in real-time, while Worldsensing’s Loadsensing™ system provides a similar value proposation for instruments located on surface.

RAMJACK is a business partner to all three of these companies and has the expertise and market knowledge to develop and implement customized solutions made up of a combination of technologies from these three leading suppliers. Southern African mines like Koffiefontein and Finsch, Jwaneng and Orapa have already opted to use this approach to give them an effective, real-time way to monitor their mine without the need for engineering staff to spend valuable time moving around the mine collecting sensor data.