Mining Contract: Refuge Chamber Deployment and Occupancy Status During Mine Emergency Situations
NIOSH has expressed interest in innovative, low-cost, and practical ways to reliably send a signal to/from a refuge chamber in an underground coal mine to validate whether or not the chamber has been deployed and if it is occupied with survivors after a mine disaster. In a postaccident environment, knowing whether or not mine refuge chambers have been deployed and occupied is critical information when deciding to risk additional lives by sending rescue teams to these locations or exploring dangerous areas of the mine. Given the large number of refuge chambers used in underground mines, it is highly desirable to have a low-cost means of transmitting a signal from a refuge chamber that indicates whether or not the chamber has been opened and if it is in use. Further, it is desirable that the communications to the surface is highly robust so that the information can be received even in the event of a complete failure of the mine's primary communications system.
Contract Status & Impact
The overall approach was to develop a prototype Refuge Chamber Interface and a Wireless MCS Gateway. The Refuge Chamber Interface, which was attached to the exterior of a refuge chamber, consists of a portable wireless texting device and a mechanism to activate the device when the chamber is opened or deployed. The Wireless MCS Gateway, which was integrated with a MagneLink® MCS unit, will be able to detect the activation of the wireless device and relay text messages between the wireless device and a MagneLink MCS unit. A mechanical activation system is simple and reliable, it consumes no power prior to device activation, and it can be visually inspected for evidence of tampering. A wireless link is more convenient than a wired connection because it simplifies the task of periodically relocating equipment as the working face advances.
The Refuge Chamber Interface along with the Wireless MCS Gateway showed that the gateway can receive digital data from a device (Tracking Tags using the CCX protocol), process the data, and act upon the contents. The Refuge Beacon is the result.
With extensions to the software, received tracking tag information could be provided to the surface rescuers during an event.
A recommendation is that NIOSH consider encouraging integration of miner tracking software suites and communication systems such as MagneLink. In this manner the surface rescue teams will be able to know which miners are nearby the communication device, such as MagneLink.
This contract is completed. A copy of the final report is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.