The Most Talked About Underground Communication TechnologiesMon, 10/21/2013 - 10:31
The ability of management teams to track all activity taking place in their underground mines has transformed the industry in recent years, and made considerable improvements to the safety performance of mining companies. “Communications and tracking have been two of the most talked about underground technologies in the last six years,” says Bob Lavergne, former Product Manager of Four Leaf Solutions. “Our applications are designed to enhance the way in which we communicate with the people working underground, and to track their exact location to prevent, or respond to, any accident.”
Being able to know what is happening in the mine in real time is an invaluable element of the solutions Four Leaf provides. “The way in which our networks are designed and engineered allows us to monitor every aspect in real time. If there is a problem with a piece of equipment, sensors or electronics, our system will immediately notify the department where the failure is located. If contact is lost with one of our location tags the operator of the mines will know about it within seconds; they can also look at the tag in order to know why communication was lost and be able to fix it right away,” says Lavergne. All information is stored in a central database meaning that, in the face of problems, historical data can be accessed in order to work out what went wrong. All of this information can be accessed remotely, at any hour of the day. “We can log onto the network to perform the necessary repairs or adjustments from anywhere in the world. We can be sitting in our office in Canada and still be able to monitor and repair a mine that is located in Mexico,” says Lavergne. The system can also produce reports that allow the mine’s management team to check things like how long it takes a truck to go from a drop point to a dump point, to see the trucks on a screen and play back their movement across a mine, and to improve the processes overall.
With 14 years in the business, Four Leaf now offers more than 350 mining software applications, and counts some of the largest international mining companies among its clients. What these products have in common is that they provide sophisticated technology in an accessible way. “We believe that nowadays almost everybody knows how to use a cell phone, and our system is as easy to use as a cell phone; operators will not have any problems adapting to how the system works,” says Lavergne. “Another advantage is that installing our technology does not necessarily require all of the existing installations within a mine to be replaced. We are able to go in and retrofit the mine to a new digital system, so we can use some of the components that are already installed and perform the transition from an analog to a digital system easily.” Lavergne sees many business opportunities in Mexico, because many mining companies continue to rely on outdated technology. “There is definitely a need to refresh the sector, in terms of technological innovation. Mexican mining companies will see huge benefits from using systems like ours, not only for location tracking, but also in terms of health equipment such as ventilation monitoring,” he concludes.