Tracker finds Springvale

MONITORING people and equipment in underground mines has become an increased priority for coal companies in recent years and mining technology provider Mine Site Technologies says its latest product, the TRACKER Tagging System, is becoming a popular choice for underground coal companies across the world.
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MST's TRACKER read beacons are set up at strategic points underground.

Angie Tomlinson

Published in September 2006 Australian Longwall Magazine

MST specialises in underground mine communications, mine tagging and tracking systems, and although the TRACKER system has been available for over a year, many coal companies have only recently realised its dual benefits and started installing the system.

MST mining engineer Denis Kent said in addition to offering significant safety benefits, the major driver of these installations has been asset control, particularly of vehicle fleets and major implements. He said mines such as Xstrata’s Oaky North and Newlands have just recently put in orders for the system.

The latest company to show interest, Centennial Coal, has ordered a complete TRACKER Tagging System for its Springvale coal mine, located two hours west of Sydney in the Lithgow coalfield area.

The system includes:

250 RFID tags within integrated communications cap lamps (ICCLs);

70 self-contained RFID tags for mounting on vehicles and implements;

18 readers/beacons to be mounted at strategic points throughout the mine; and

Four large zone display units for displaying information at panel entries for access control.

The TRACKER tags are designed to be carried by personnel inside their cap lamp or as stand-alone fixtures, mounted on vehicles or on other underground equipment.

Kent said the tags transmit their unique identification and battery status on UHF frequency to a reader/beacon over a range of up to 100m (ie 50m inbye and outbye a beacon location).

The beacons then receive tag IDs and transmit that data back to the PC at the central office via RS485 serial protocol. At a minimum, the beacons can reliably record 10 tags moving past in a vehicle at 40km per hour, and significantly more moving at lesser speeds.

Springvale mine’s Paul Glasson said the new ICCLs were chosen for the mine because of their light weight and because the PED and tag can be in one unit.

“Springvale is also a very wet mine, so the sealed ICCL will result in less maintenance than the older style BeltPEDs,” he said.

An interesting application for the system will be to use the tags on vehicles to also automate the block light system in the travel roads at the mine.

Kent said the TRACKER system’s ICCL is easy to implement where a mine already has two-stage charging racks in place, as these do not require an entire new charging system, but simply require some minor electrical modifications.

“What the Springvale miners will notice is the difference in weight and bulk immediately. With more personal protective equipment – like large SCSRs – to carry, reducing the weight and bulk of a miner's cap lamp and communication equipment offers significant occupational health and safety advantages,” Kent said.

The ICCLs and tags have recently been installed at Springvale. Australian Longwall Magazine will review the project in its March 2007 edition.