Telecoms and mining have come together in two recent projects involving technology vendor Huawei in South Africa and Laos. Both underline the potential of wireless in particular in industrial safety.
Huawei, operator MTN, international technology company Minetec Smart Mining and coal exploration and mining company Canyon Coal have launched a 5G connected coal mine operation at the opencast Phalanndwa Colliery near Delmas, a farming town situated east of Johannesburg in Mpumalanga.
This collaboration sees Huawei and MTN provide an advanced 5G solution to ensure guaranteed connectivity within the mine and plant area, thereby, say the partners, leading the digital transformation of South Africa’s mining industry.
The ultra-high bandwidth and ultra-low latency of 5G allows real-time communication among the mine workers, while other proposed application scenarios include a proximity detection system, vehicle detection, a tracking system and wireless video surveillance.
The systems will reduce the occurrence of accidents and protect workers from being harmed by trucks. Furthermore, they will be able to monitor the movement trajectory and status of trucks in real time to shorten downtime.
Meanwhile, in a potash mine in Laos, a miner last week made a video call on a wireless network from 300 metres underground using his smartphone.
Asia-Potash International Investment is one of the largest potassium fertiliser producers in Asia. To better manage the increased scope of operations, the company plans to introduce several technical upgrades that will boost productivity as well as site safety. Fast communications are the foundation for enabling these upgrades.
It took only two months to deploy Huawei’s Smart Mining Solution at the site; it consists of both wired and 4G networks. Wireless networks can provide coverage in parts of the mine where it is too difficult to deploy fibre. This will enable the deployment of capabilities like automated quality control or immediate response to incidents anywhere in the mine. The fibre network is comprehensively deployed above ground and partially in underground operations.
Once in place, smart mine technologies will maximise staff safety above and below ground and – who knows? – projects like these may be imitated elsewhere in the world, potentially benefiting both efficiency and more importantly, workers’ welfare.