Peñoles Will Incorporate Frequency Bands To Improve SafetyBy Fernando Mares | Mon, 08/29/2022 - 14:33
The collapse of a coal mine in Sabinas, Coahuila, where 10 miners have remained trapped for weeks, has drawn the attention of some that believe the entire mining sector operates in the at times rudimentary ways that coal mines do. This caused Mexican companies to show that their projects comply with safety regulations. In this context, Industrias Peñoles invested significantly in modernizing and digitalizing its operations to strengthen safety conditions in its mines.
Peñoles announced that it will develop a private telecommunications network in areas where it has operations, aiming to improve its productivity and guarantee communications with its workers if accidents occur. The upgrading works were announced after the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) authorized the company to use the 148-174 MHz frequency band for five years in Durango, Chihuahua, Sonora and Zacatecas on June 1, 2022. In exchange, the company will pay the ministry US$17,700. “It is a priority to guarantee the physical integrity for both employees and facilities. Due to the growth and expansion of operations in the mining industry, [frequency bands] are needed to meet the communication needs,” IFT stated.
According to Luis Vázquez, Director of Mines, Grupo Peñoles, the company is still designing the application of the band, which he assured that will transform the company’s mines into smart operation centers. The company has already implemented digitization works in some facilities, like in the Velardeña complex in Durango. Here, the company uses remote-operated equipment, which allows the company to supervise workers in real-time from an operation room, which requires optic fiber and Wi-Fi hotspots. “We know through the screens where is each one of [the workers]. Furthermore, workers can also communicate with us in case of an emergency,” Vázquez added.
According to IFT, only Peñoles and Minera Autlán have asked the institute to access the network for their activities. This factor worries experts who assure that telecommunications are vital to mitigate mining’s high-risk operations.
The mining industry, along with tourism, are the first to incorporate 5G technologies in Mexico. Nonetheless, just a few companies have implemented such technology. Experts foresee that the mining sector could benefit greatly from real-time supervision of machinery, sensors and energy systems from kilometers away. Companies could also control ventilation and monitor workers via smart helmets, as well as send and receive emergency messages.