Tag Archives: underground communications

RCT embeds machine automation expertise in new Wi-Fi offering

RCT says it has released the first digital Wi-Fi communications network designed specifically for machine automation and control in underground mining operations.

RCT Connect is designed to be user friendly and portable and can be installed into a production area and commissioned with minimal time and expertise, according to the automation leader.

The company has already made significant headway with RCT Connect, with the network having been tested at a mine site in Western Australia and recently deployed in an underground mining operation outside of Australia.

RCT Connect has been built to withstand the harsh conditions, common in underground mining environments, and can operate in temperatures ranging from -20°C (-4°F) to 60°C (140°F), RCT said.

It uses a coaxial cable able to transfer power and information to access points for up to 1.5 km before additional power insertion is required along the length of a drive, according to RCT.

“This feature offers several major benefits over traditional Wi-Fi deployments such as reduced requirement for configuration, eliminating costly cables to run between access points and a simple installation with only two connections,” the company said.

Once operational, RCT Connect provides a simple connection to a ControlMaster® Area Access Control at strategic locations which then links into the mine-wide communications backbone to transfer information to a machine operator located in a ControlMaster Automation Centre on the mine’s surface, the company said.

The platform operates at 2.4 GHz and is capable of carrying out remote diagnostics, live machine tracking and delivering live health and production data from the machine, according to RCT.

RCT Product Manager Automation & Control, Brendon Cullen, said RCT Connect offers several distinct advantages over commercially available digital communication networks.

“RCT Connect is specifically designed to ensure uninterrupted communication between the machine and the operator regardless of location,” he said.

“The platform has very stable performance with low, consistent latency and so ensures reliable communications between command inputs from the surface station and subsequent machine activities.”

He added: “We have also optimised the platform to enable smart roaming and, therefore, seamless handover between wireless access points so that there is no dropout along the length of the drives.”

In other commercially available communications networks, node handover is configured differently so if the machine is looking for a node or hangs on too long then communication failures arise, Cullen explained.

RCT Connect can be sold as a standalone package or in conjunction with RCT’s ControlMaster automation products.

GMG completes the underground communications infrastructure trilogy

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has published the third part of its Underground Mine Communications Infrastructure guideline suite, which, it says, provides an overview of the planning and design recommendations for underground communications development.

Called Underground Mine Communications Infrastructure Guidelines, Part III: General Guidelines, the document also includes some best practices used within mining environments and where to find more information on digital communications, standards, and frameworks, GMG said.

Andrew Scott, Principal Innovator, Symbiotic Innovations and GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups, described this document as “a key general reference for any company looking to implement communications infrastructure at any of their operations or new projects”.

This guideline suite was developed in response to the rapid development of industrial and communications technology in recent years, according to GMG. “It provides a high-level view of the processes needed by mine personnel to meet planning and design requirements when creating or replacing underground mine communications infrastructure,” GMG said. “It steps the user through the general tasks and components to define the technical requirements for an underground communications infrastructure that sup­ports mine services now and into the future.”

GMG Chair, Michelle Ash, said: “These technologies are now at the heart of mining safety and productivity and are becoming essential for running safe, productive and efficient underground mining operations. Anything we can do to speed up the rate of adoption in our members’ operations will make a positive impact on the industry.”

These general guidelines form the core content of the guideline suite, according to GMG. Part I: Positioning and Needs Analysis provides a general overview of the guideline objectives and audience and presents a mine communications maturity lifecycle diagram. Part II: Scenarios and Applications outlines scenarios of practical applications in underground mining today and in the near future. Both were published in 2017.

This third part, Scott explained, can be used more directly: “[It] provides a sound foundation for selecting the appropriate communications infrastructure, assisting with the decision-making process.”

This project has been ongoing since the Underground Mining Working Group formed in 2015. “The underground communications project group has been a very active and motivated group of mine operators and technology suppliers,” Scott said.

Eric L’Heureux, President, Solutions Ambra Inc, said, from a technology provider’s perspective, “This guideline is very important as it allows the mining industry to stay on the leading edge of the technology. The mining companies can get relevant information allowing them to upgrade their networks and meet requirements required by new applications such as remote operation, ventilation on demand and tracking.”

Cailli Knievel, Chief Engineer, Newmont Leeville Operations, said what she learned while working on this guideline was “extremely relevant as Newmont moves toward increased automation”.

It is great “to get an outside perspective on items that have the potential to disrupt the industry in the future”, she added.