Future vision

UNDERGROUND coal industry experts gathered in Queensland late last week for NLT’s Mine Technology Focus Group to discuss future mine technology ideas and to hear presentations from Vale’s Andy Mifflin on mining into the unknown, Anglo’s Bruce Robertson on collision avoidance and NLT’s Chris Filmer on portable WiFi node trials at Newlands, among others.

Angie Tomlinson

The two-day event was held at Mooloolaba and gathered a broad selection of experts from mining companies together with industry representatives, including Mines Rescue Service, to discuss future mine technology improvement and development ideas.

The event was opened by NLT Australia managing director Tim Haight before handing over to NLT Global president Heidi Levitt, who spoke on the company’s growth.

NLT Australia sales manager Chris Filmer gave an introduction to the company’s current digital product line before NLT Global director of engineering Fred Kopeschny covered the company’s products under development.

The floor was then handed over to Queensland Mines Rescue’s Geoff Nugent, who spoke on mine re-entry and knowledge management for emergencies.

He discussed how to establish a process so both a mine and Mines Rescue Service could quickly obtain and validate information to make an informed decision on the risk to rescuers to enter a mine when it had become dangerous.

Next, Vale group projects manager Andy Mifflin held a crystal ball up to underground coal mine communications, automatic go/no go cache and machine monitoring, consumable usage reporting, online real-time visualisation from mine geological model to assist flight plan update, online system measurement and interchangeable compatibility plug and play.

Anglo Coal underground technical services manager Bruce Robertson looked at collision avoidance in underground coal mines.

Robertson covered hazards to be addressed, risk management, the current status of technology and the extent of protection required.

An insight into how Anglo Coal South Africa had tested and implemented a number of systems was also reviewed.

“This subject led to much discussion. It was agreed by all that the solution will need to be a joint collaboration between coal operators, equipment and technology suppliers and research providers and regulators,” NLT’s Filmer said, adding Queensland Mines Inspectorate senior inspector Tilman Rasche had discussed plans for a working group on the subject in the near future.

Day two was opened with a presentation by Filmer on trials of an internally powered portable WiFi node for underground developed by NLT in consultation with Queensland Mines Rescue. The technology is an extension of NLT’s current Exia-approved intrinscally safe WiFi communication and tracking node.

The tests were carried out in April at Xstrata’s Newlands mine and proved data transfer node-to-node up to 1300 metres, and node to voice over internet protocol phones up to 900 metres.

Filmer said the results were double the distance expected, “ensuring commitment by mines to install fibre networks underground will have far-reaching benefits in safety and productivity”

Peabody Pacific chief engineer Peter Brisbane next presented on communication and data capture underground.

Brisbane said communication advances were needed in normal operations “anywhere” in the mine and in entrapment/post-event situations. He said vast improvement was also required in real-time capture and transfer of data underground and to the surface.

NLT’s Haight closed the event with technology advance focus areas, covering protocol converters and environmental monitoring, including current IS approval of ultras-sonic air flow metering.

Filmer said results of the event would be reviewed and taken onboard for future research and development and product improvements.

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