Mining In The 21st Century: Wireless Sensor Communication Prevents Safety Hazards

Creating a safer environment in industrial settings continues to be a major focus for technology developers. Now the mining industry is taking steps to further improve safety with new wireless technology. A Norwegian-African cooperative project is currently developing a wireless network of sensors to help prevent mine explosions. Mining is a very dangerous job and if there were to ever be an accident, could prove fatal. Communication is key on-site so that miners know exactly where they can work. Miners often communicate via a walkie talkie so that they know exactly what’s going on, and this new innovative technology is going to make their jobs a lot easier and safer.

It’s vital for mining operations to have the ability to detect explosive gasses within mines before they ignite. SINTEF, the largest independent Scandinavian research organization set out to find a solution to this life or death problem. One of SINTEF’s spin-off companies, GasSecure, was tasked with perfecting a reliable gas-detection sensor system.

The system is made up of a communication network that wirelessly transmits and receives signals deep within mines where blasting, excavation and drilling is taking place. These systems must be robust enough to withstand the harsh conditions within the mines themselves. Mining is notorious for its harsh conditions. High levels of humidity, dirt, dust and high temperatures calls for new technology as conventional sensors wouldn’t be able to stand up in these conditions.

“In the first instance, the system will be used to gather data that can immediately detect a potential explosion hazard in the mine, enabling mine-workers to rapidly receive a warning of danger. The next objective will be to use the data as a basis for on-demand, and thus energy-saving, ventilation in the mine. Quite simply, we want to develop an integrated on-demand ventilation system for mining operations,” said Trond Bakken, project manager of SINTEF Digital. (

The first pilot project took place from 2012 to 2013 and the data greatly benefited current research. While the pilot project was taking place, a SINTEF and GasSecure sensor successfully detected methane, a highly combustible hydrocarbon, on an offshore platform. Furthermore the research led to the conclusion that wireless communication networks were possible underground, even while being put through these harsh conditions

While development continues, the project will focus on two main areas. First, the team is working on developing an additional sensor to measure the temperature, humidity and airflow underground. This will provide the miners with additional, potentially lifesaving data that will work in conjunction with the previously developed multi gas sensor.

No word yet on when these wireless communication networks and sensors will be available for sale. Development is still underway. SINTEF and GasSecure are working to strengthen the wireless communication system to ensure accurate and reliable real-time data. If the project proves a success, it could lead to a much safer work environment for mining operations around the globe.

Manufacturing Talk Radio will be keeping a close eye on these developments. Make sure to check back soon for the latest Manufacturing news and trends.


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