Vehicle interactions in any mining environment can be hard to manage! I know this firsthand as I have produced many complex traffic management plans at operations around Western Australia. Underground however, it requires different rules of engagement as multiple varying sized machines use the same routes for access and egress from working areas.
There have been advances in this area within my time working underground. Mainly the use of barricades and lights placed by the operator, demarcating the area they are working within. This system, whilst effective, does have one major flaw. It requires the operator to correctly mount and install the visual barrier in situ. I have seen the small flashing beacons fail or placed on an angle that isn’t visible for those entering the area, deeming the system useless.
An integrated solution has come to market for the underground sector to manage & control working zones via a smart system of modules, sensors, and lighting. The holistic network approach developed by IoT Automation, and their FireFly system, allows for full control of a mining levels lighting from surface as well as creating dynamic working zones around mobile plant as they navigate the mine.
The system works via a network of connected smart lighting modules, which not only illuminate as required, but also collect and feed data back to the mine control room. These modules have multiple uses and can be used for fully integrated tracking of personnel and mobile assets within the underground environment. This then allows for automatic safety parameters to be built around the lighting protocols for ongoing traffic control within the mine.
A good example of this active traffic control may be an underground truck navigating up and down the decline. The mining operation could set a 150m wide buffer around the truck, to allow other mine users to visually see its location via the lighting system changing as it winds around the access tunnels. This would act as a further alert to historically used radio calls, and could reduce decline interactions and therefore assist in increasing trucking rates.
Further to this mobile application, the system can be used in conjunction with other fixed environmental sensors to monitor a wide range of other limiting factors within the underground operation. Ventilation, seismic activity & toxic gas build up, can all be monitored in real time and then whole mine areas can be placed into a “no entry” state by turning all lighting to the red colour way. This is particularly effective within block caving scenarios where there can potentially be multiple access points to hazardous areas. However, conventional LHOS mines can also utilise this feature if they require seismic stand-off following large seismic activity or stope blasting.
As well as delivering ongoing visual indicators and data to the mining team, the FireFly system can also assist in the event of an unplanned emergency. The dynamic ability of the lighting system means that it can assist miners to their nearest refuge chamber or fresh air base when triggered. Having been through a few emergencies underground, any system which can assist with alerting miners and helping them navigate in potentially high stress scenarios is of great value!
A system such as FireFly really moves a mine toward a holistic, digital, real-time view of what is happening underground. This is not only by the environmental sensors, but also via the ability to track mobile plant and personnel. Improved transparency for any underground operation along with the smart lighting functionality, will deliver many efficiencies across the board.
For more information on the FireFly system and what it could offer your underground project please click here.
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