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Integration of a coal-mine emergency communication network into pre-mine planning and development

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2014, Vol. 336, No. 1, pp. 371-380

Sindelar, M.F.; Bise, C.J.


Regulations, such as the MINER Act of 2006, require the installation of redundant and secondary communication systems to assure that contact can be established with coal miners who may become trapped underground as a result of an event such as a fire, explosion or inundation. For half a century, the orientation towards underground communications has been that more complex systems better serve the coal miner. However, if a goal is to provide for an alternative means of establishing communication between the surface and trapped miners underground, then some of the technology employed should be simple, reliable and cost-effective. 

  Coal mines spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on exploratory drillholes to characterize reserves, sometimes decades ahead of mine development. During the pre-mine planning phases, certain exploratory drillholes could be located and then outfitted with a simple communication link that would remain compatible with the continuing evolution of communication systems. Inexpensive links, whose locations would be accurately recorded, would be exposed by continuous miners during mine entry development, thereby allowing an underground phone to be connected to a surface station in the event of an emergency. A latent network of these communication links could be installed for less than $500 each, minimally affecting drilling and grouting operations, and could be designed to be compatible with many communication devices. This research examines methods and materials for incorporating an embedded communication link during pre-mine exploration drilling, addresses significant factors affecting its implementation, and presents a recommended design. Since mine plans are known to change, the objective is to minimize cost so that, if not used, the investment is minimal for a potential secondary means of communication between the surface and underground workings.