Aptly named after the multi-headed mythological creature that guarded the gates of Hades, Cerberus can assist in the management of significant incidents in underground mines, allowing remote access and monitoring to areas otherwise inaccessible.
The monitoring system can be lowered from a surface borehole of 150mm in diameter to underground areas. At Dartbrook it was able to monitor the temperature and gas atmosphere in a roadway 270m underground from the surface, as well as returning video images of the underground environment.
Cerberus can also extract gas samples for comprehensive laboratory analysis necessary for proper interpretation of the make-up of the air underground.
The system’s genesis is related to the problems of obtaining adequate quality information to enable mine fires and other similar incidents to be properly managed, both in Australia and overseas.
Major underground mine fires continue to occur where mine workers are safely evacuated but control of the fire remotely is limited by imperfect information. The coal industry identified several needs around emergency incidents at a forum carried out in NSW and Queensland in 2002. These needs were prioritised and the trial represents the practical demonstration of the first phase of the project. The project received ACARP funding.
Cerberus is available for use (it was not intended to be developed for commercial gain) and currently resides with the NSW Mines Rescue Service. Researchers said the project needs industry input and mines to use the device in order to identify what other capabilities it needs.
Dr David Cliff, director of research at MISHC and Cerberus project leader said: “ It is pleasing to see the successful trial of this device as it has the potential to significantly improve our ability to manage significant incidents. Too often in the past control has been attempted based on imperfect information. For example, inert gas has been pumped into areas without any knowledge of what those areas look like and therefore no real idea that the inert gas will be able to have any effect.
“It is important to acknowledge the input of my project co-leader John Lakeland, managing director of Geotechnical Systems Australia Pty Ltd, who constructed the prototype and provides much of the technical knowledge, as well as the financial support of the Australian Coal Association Research Program, without which this project would never have happened.
“In addition I would like to thank Dartbrook Colliery for providing the resources necessary for the field trials,” he added.