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Emergency Mine Communications using Bidirectional through-the-Earth Wireless Transmission

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Published: December 99Project Number: C6039

Get ReportAuthor: JD Bunton, GR Daniels, Colin Jackia | CSIRO Telecommunications and Industrial Physics

CSIRO Telecommunications and Industrial Physics (CTIP) was contracted to undertake research leading to a proof-of-concept demonstrator that could be further developed into a robust mine emergency communications system for underground coal mines which will facilitate bi-directional low bit-rate data communications between the surface control room and personnel underground. The system does not rely on other communication systems and mine infrastructure to remain intact after a disaster, and has permanent, disaster-resistant, two-way, multiple connectivity between the mine and the surface. These features are designed to meet the requirements suggested by Task Group 4, set up as a result of the Warden's Inquiry into the disaster at Moura No 2 Mine in 1994.

The Summary Report discusses research work undertaken during the period February 1997 to April 1999 by CSIRO Telecommunications and Industrial Physics. The project, funded by ACARP and CSIRO, resulted in a successful demonstration of a proof-of-concept system in March 1999 at Dartbrook Colliery. Further work was undertaken during April to December 1999 in preparation for a commercialisation phase.

A wireless-based solution seemed obvious, but radio propagation in confined underground spaces is complex, and portable equipment suffers from power limitations. Sophisticated digital communications and coding techniques developed at CSIRO and used in the telecommunications industry, along with the availability of new Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology has been used to provide this new emergency mine communications scheme. CSIRO has patented this technology.

This "Summary Report" provides material that outlines the aims of the project and some information on the results achieved. It provides references to previous international work on wireless communications in a mining environment. A summary of some of the propagation constraints that have prevented previous successful implementation is provided, and some of the environmental conditions that constrain the range that can be achieved in a mine with a wireless system are described. An outline of the system that was demonstrated at Dartbrook Colliery is provided. Detailed theoretical analysis of relevant electromagnetic propagation concepts is not included in this Summary Report, nor are some of the results of experiments obtained from field trials.

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