Wireless communication technologies cannot be adopted from other industries and forced to function in an underground mining environment, states mining technology company Ya Batho.
“Technology from other industries is not designed for mining and cannot, by law, be deployed in hazardous areas. We insist on conducting site visits and signal propagation testing. Based on the results, a fit-for-purpose unit is designed, built and certified for every client,” says Ya Batho sales operation manager Craig Franck.
Ya Batho complies with IEEE 802.11 which refers to the set of standards that define communication for wireless local area networks.
Ya Batho integrates its technology with existing proximity detection systems or collision avoidance systems on the market and with the original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Commercial cellular technology cannot interface with trackless mobile machinery, proximity detection systems, collision avoidance systems, or with the gas monitoring systems used in coal mines specifically.
“It is not about providing voice over Internet protocol – it is about providing a solution that can interface with OEM equipment and transmit the machine health and production data in real time, as well as make and receive phone calls, livestream video and get a live tip count,” explains Franck.
For the first time, management above ground can watch the continuous miner operate through a camera feed in real time and phone the operator, should the need arise.
Franck states that the communication equipment must be certified for inby and must be able to operate in close proximity to trackless mobile machinery without interfering with its operating and safety systems.
“It is for this reason that Ya Batho ensures that its equipment is subjected to electromagnetic compatibility testing, certified and approved by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).“
The DMRE directive ME2-2003 states that the maximum transmitted power of wireless transmitters and cellphones used in mines is limited to 500 mW and only intrinsically safe type ia certified (Zone 0) cellphones and two-way radios may be used. Ya Batho complies with both the transmitted power and the Ex ia certification,” he says.
He notes that signal propagation and the placement of access points – to ensure that all roadways, crosscuts and belt drives are covered – are the biggest challenges for mining houses.
Commercial cellular technology requires kilometres of cabling because of its extremely limited signal propagation and coverage, and as such, while providers profess that the technology is wireless, in truth it is a wired system in underground environments, says Franck.
“Ya Batho not only installs wireless systems from scratch but also integrates them into existing technology, where possible.”