Miner Safety System
Monitoring location and activities of miners, as well as environmental information, is essential to ensure miner safety, with current information transmission systems used in underground mines not cost-effectively delivering on this need. Visible Light Communication (VLC) and Power Line Communication (PLC) hold unique, inexpensive, scalable and compatible capabilities that can be employed to improve miners' safety. Power line installations and lighting devices form part of fundamental and existing mine infrastructure due to the obvious need for electric power and lighting in underground mines. These existing power line installations and lighting devices can be used as communication channels through PLC and VLC systems by converting analogue radio frequency signals to voltages.
Wits researchers have developed a miner safety system to improve miners’ safety by monitoring their location through transmissions of light from LED-based miner’s headlamps that have been modified to emit a globally unique and imperceptible signature monitored by installed sensors at regular intervals (e.g., every few meters) inside a mine. This enables continuous location tracking of miners, which improves rescue efforts in the event of cave-ins and ensures areas are clear of personnel before blasting, etc.
The system is also being extended to transmit and log sensor data such as atmosphere gas and dust content, temperature, radiation, as well as vitals of the wearer such as heart rate. This data can then be used to trigger evacuations.