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Demand to rise for underground comms

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Following the recent highly publicised deaths in a US coal mine, the West Virginia state legislature has passed laws that require mines to install a communications system that can reach miners underground.

This legislation is likely to benefit NSW-based Mine Site Technologies , the only international supplier of underground communications technologies already used in coal mines around the world.

According to MST sales and marketing director Mike Foletti, other US states will likely pass similar laws in the near future so the company expects significant demand for its Personal Emergency Device (PED) and its new Tracker mine communications systems.

Developed in Australia in response to the Moura mine disasters in 1986 and 1990, the equipment is used in Australian and US coal mines.

“While we have about 30 PED systems operating in US mines, the coal sector there has tended to be slow to update technology and invest in this equipment,” Foletti says.

Tracker is the latest stage evolution of the PED technology that helps locate mine personnel underground.

The PED system came to prominence in the US in a fire at the Willow Creek coal mine in 1998 when it sent mine-wide evacuation signal to 45 miners underground and led to a full and safe evacuation.

Meanwhile, the latest Australian sale of the PED system is to Xstrata Coal’s new Newlands North mine, which is buying the Integrated Communications Cap Lamp (ICCL) with both PED tracking and Tracker tagging electronics.

The PED receivers allow all miners working underground to receive text messages via a surface antenna. It becomes the primary emergency warning system and will initiate a mine evacuation if necessary.

To complement the PED system and other communications devices in use at the mine, Newlands North is also incorporating Tracker tags in each ICCL.

The active tags transmit to read beacons installed at strategic locations underground and monitor the movement of personnel and equipment throughout the mine in real time.

Other Xstrata Coal mines with similar MST systems include Oaky North, United, Oaky No1 and Baal Bone coal mines.

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