Wi-Fi in Underground Mines Using Peer-to-Peer Networks

Over the last decade, mining productivity has been on a steady decline. The industry is grappling with challenges such as market volatility, deteriorating ore grades, and talent shortage. Against this background, the best leverage that the sector possesses is cost reduction. Companies have approached the limits of manual operations and their associated inefficiencies, and are rethinking existing strategies to cut costs and produce more efficiently. Digitization presents an opportunity for companies to achieve these goals.

One of the selling points of mining digitization is near-real-time access to critical production data, which empowers personnel to make decisions for improved operational efficiencies, while also ensuring safety. However, given that underground mining operations take place in high-stress and hazardous environments where maps are being redrawn every day, miners are challenged by the ability to reliably store and quickly transfer production and operational data under these harsh conditions.One of the selling points of mining digitization is near-real-time access to critical production data, which empowers personnel to make decisions for improved operational efficiencies, while also ensuring safety. However, given that underground mining operations take place in high-stress and hazardous environments where maps are being redrawn every day, miners are challenged by the ability to reliably store and quickly transfer production and operational data under these harsh conditions.

Infrastructure-based wireless networks alone are not entirely reliable in solving the data transfer challenge prevalent in underground mines, due to the following reasons:

1. Extreme Operating Conditions

Despite the best efforts of all involved, equipment damage is almost an everyday occurrence at mine sites. Part of this has to do with the sheer difficulty of continually maneuvering massive pieces of equipment through dark tunnels with inches to spare for up to 12 hours at a time. Physical impact on wireless access points during underground mining operations makes an infrastructure-based Wi-Fi network unreliable in such a scenario. Specific vendors of apps and databases do an exceptional job of making sure that data entered on an app is secure on its tablet and will sync upon its next access to internet connectivity. This entirely addresses the “reliably storing” aspect of data management. However, it does not fully address the “quickly transferring” aspect.

2. The dynamism of Mining Environment

Mining is characterized by a continually changing physical landscape. Passages get longer, tunnels get deeper, and piles get bigger. This means that utilities such as the internet are continually playing catch-up with the actual “advance” of the mine itself. As mines become broader and deeper, they are subject to physical data transfer constraints as the equipment that captures critical production data is often outside of infrastructure-driven internet access for long periods of time.

Given the above reasons, it is clear that total dependence on infrastructure-based networks cannot solve the connectivity challenge in underground mines. This is where peer-to-peer networks will be exceptionally valuable. These networks leverage the dynamism of the mining environment, where multiple pieces of tablet-equipped machinery are continually moving past each other, to quickly transfer data to the control center, where it can be interpreted and used effectively to guide decision-making. This generates tremendous value for mining companies and the stakeholders they serve.

Peer-to-peer networks will play a foundational role in driving digitization across the mining industry.

GroundHog FMS, a mobile fleet management system, optimized for use in underground mines is designed to work out of the box for all underground mine operations incorporating peer-to-peer network helping you digitize your mine and drive transformational results.

Interested in learning more about how you can optimize fleet maintenance with GroundHog FMS?

Request a demo today!

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