Network Convergence for Underground Mines

Mining Rocks! CIM Toronto 2005
Anita Masuskapoe,
Abstract This paper aims to describe the reasons and methods to extend enterprise networks into underground mines. Currently mines use a number of communication networks for telephones, PLCs, two-way VHF radio and computer networking. Each system can have different wiring, protocols, converters and interfaces all which require expansion and maintenance. The convergence of voice, video and data using Ethernet and TCP/IP has the very real benefit of one “wire” for underground networks. Now that the majority of underground equipment can communicate using TCP/IP, network convergence can offer reduced network expansion and maintenance costs.

Cost savings are good, but the truly exciting aspect of network convergence using Ethernet is the low-cost, high speed wireless networking now available. These wireless networks offer an opportunity to facilitate mining automation even on a small budget. How would mine operators change they way they operate if they could gather vehicle location and data in real time? What about controlling equipment remotely? The list of applications is long and includes traffic control, dispatching, real-time ore blending, tele-operation, automated production reporting, vehicle health monitoring, elimination of paper forms and immediate network access for surveyors and geologists.

An ideal converged network for underground mining would be robust, inexpensive, easy to expand, enable fast and secure connections while keeping voice communication performance equivalent or better than what is now provided by VHF radio.
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