Mining Publication: Technology News 544 - New Measurement Tool to Validate Wireless Communications and Tracking Radio Signal Coverage in Mines
The objective is to develop a tool to accurately measure, store, and plot on a mine map the radio signal strength of wireless communications and tracking systems in underground mines. This capability would allow mines to identify areas where radio signal coverage may be weak or missing, enabling them to correct these coverage gaps before an emergency occurs. In June 2006, Congress passed the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, mandating that underground coal mines provide emergency response plans that include two-way wireless communications and electronic tracking systems within three years. Since that time, most underground coal mine operators have installed these systems using guidelines set forth in the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) program policy letters (PPL) that followed. Depending on the size and complexity of the mine, the process of verifying the actual radio signal coverage of communications and tracking systems can be difficult and time-consuming. The only way to ensure coverage is to perform many manual radio signal "spot checks" while walking to different locations throughout the mine, thus verifying two-way communications with the surface. This is a crude way to ensure the overall dynamic coverage of an emergency communications and tracking system, and this procedure only verifies coverage in those areas that have been checked. To address this problem, the MineComms Mapper (TM) (MCM) was developed under a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) contract in 2009 by Helium Networks. The MCM provides a faster, more comprehensive approach for verifying communications and tracking system signal coverage in underground mines.