Wireless technologies improve mine safety

12th September 2008 By: Fatima Gabru

Information and communications technology company GijimaAst’s mining division (GMSI) and Tronimex Data Technologies have partnered to develop a locally innovated radio-frequency identification-(RFID-) based management system that is currently being implemented at iron-ore-miner Kumba’s Sishen mine, in the Northern Cape.

The Wireless Event Manage-ment System (Wems) can be used, besides other applications, for the access control or key control of operators to mining and manu- facturing equipment.

Wems enables the mine to operate in accordance with the required safety acts pertaining to moving machinery. Each operator wears an active RFID personnel tag. When entering through the mine’s turnstiles, the operator’s licences on the tag are updated wirelessly. Prior to an operator starting equip- ment, the system checks that the operator has the required qualifications and up-to-date licences to operate the equipment.

If any of the requirements are missing or have expired, the operator is unable to start the equipment. The hardware in the equipment logs and time-stamps all the events, and forwards it to the Wems database through Wems radio frequency or wireless local area network (Lan). Biometric options, such as fingerprint and vein readers, can be incorporated as well.

The software can operate in standalone mode, or can be integrated with a client’s enterprise resource planning system to automatically import operator details and qualifications. Forepersons are informed in advance, by email, that an operator’s licence is about to expire. The system will also inform the foreperson if an opera- tor has not operated equipment for a preset period.

Because licences are stored on the personnel tags and data is buffered, mining operations can continue even when Lan is down.

The system has a wide variety of additional applications, such as the management of site access, time and attendance, the tracking of products during manufacturing processes and the tracking of goods.

GMSI is the distributor of Australian developer Mine Site Technology’s (MST’s) range of underground wireless communication systems. The company is also the distributor for other proven MST technologies, like the Personal Emergency Device Communication System, which is based on ultralow frequency transmission that propagates through rock strata.

In South African conditions, this has been demonstrated at 1 400 m. It has been installed in over 150 coal and metalliferous mines around the world.

GMSI provides new technology- based solutions to the mining, minerals and metals market. One of its business areas focuses on the provision of solutions in the operations management space.