Mining Contract: Development of a Uniform Methodology for Evaluating Coal Mine Tracking Systems
Several technologies have been developed or adapted to meet the communications and tracking requirements of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) of 2006. A variety of systems have been commercialized, and some are installed in underground coal mines. Evaluating the performance of these systems is not easily done. The lack of a uniform evaluation methodology makes it difficult to assess which technologies are better suited for certain mining applications.
Contract Status & Impact
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To ensure self-escape and rescue capabilities for workers in underground mines, a uniform methodology to assess the accuracy of communications and tracking systems is needed. A uniform methodology could help to determine whether a newer technologic innovation represents a performance improvement over existing technologies, or even if a proposed implementation of a specific technology is likely to satisfy a regulatory requirement. This problem is especially acute with personnel-tracking technologies. One or more in-mine test beds would be ideal for solving this problem. However, given the rate at which coal mining advances underground, and the need for the typical mining infrastructure to enable the test bed, it would be practically impossible to establish and maintain such a test bed over a reasonable period. Thus an alternative is required to facilitate a meaningful performance comparison among technologies and specific manufacturer implementations of those technologies.
To develop and demonstrate a methodology to uniformly evaluate tracking technologies in underground coal mines, OMSHR awarded a contract to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. A test cart was constructed for collecting accurate in-mine ground-truth location information for comparison to conventional tracking system data. Collected data was reviewed and an approach for the development of recommended analytical methodology and test procedures for evaluating tracking systems was finalized.
The final report resulting from this contract describes techniques for measuring the values and reducing the data in a standard way, which allows for multiple tracking technologies to be evaluated. These measurements include techniques that can be used regularly at important tracking areas, such as the working face, and surveys of the tracking system that can be performed to check the outby areas of the mine. The report also discusses how performance of tracking systems can be predicted given a particular technology, tracking system design, and mine layout. This work represents a significant step forward in the identification of possible approaches to measuring tracking system performance.
Research performed under this contract resulted in the journal article, "Geolocation for underground coal mining applications: Classification of systems," published in the April 2014 issue of Mining Engineering magazine.
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