Success Story

Taking 4G LTE Underground

The Outcomes

  • Execute an underground 4G LTE solution
  • Integrated existing infrastructure at site
  • POC Live Streaming Video
  • Deliver without impacting operations
  • Integrate master-network to create single-site network

The Challenge

  • Mixture of infrastructure on site
  • Significant line-of-site issues
  • Extreme heat and humidity in operations
  • Focus on delivery of live video in ever-changing production environment

The realm of underground mining operations has often been put in the too hard basket for data network connectivity. Underground mine networks have typically been ad hoc, utilise fragmented technologies and unreliable due to challenging environmental conditions.

Mining operators are constrained by the unique challenges of mining underground which typically create significant line-of-site and environmental barriers to effective communications.

Operations can be limited to at worst, 2-way voice communications which are unreliable and have highly limited data transmission capabilities. More ‘modern’ networks utilise leaky feeder cable and strategically positioned Wi-Fi access points and to deliver signal, but they too run into issues with line-of-sight and data throughput limitations. 

A Better Approach

In 2016, Aqura were approached to identify a way to deliver a 4G LTE underground wireless network for a major gold-mining operation in the West Australian goldfields region.

The operator wanted to grow their capabilities to better leverage underground communications to support:

  • Real-time video monitoring
  • Better access to operations data to support mine performance planning
  • Create a foundation to implement more reliable mine communications

 

The Aqura team responded in record time with a proof-of-concept which met all requirements, and was highly robust. The customer was especially impressed by the RF modelling which was provided as part of the scoping. The modelling significantly reduced project risk by providing a signal strength heatmap with estimations of data throughput in each part of the tunnel system.

Proof in the Delivery

The mine operator commissioned the network to be implemented through a combination of leaky feeder cable, and ruggedised transmission points.

The Aqura team supported the head-end, backhaul and core network integration into the wider underground distribution network, all within limited timelines which had to minimise impact on operations.

During final testing of the solution prior to go-live, the network delivered over and above estimates.

Enabling high performance

The successful delivery of a high capacity underground 4G LTE network opens up opportunities for digitising mine operations.

Step change in safety management

An always on, pervasive network extends the reach of operational safety systems. Personnel tracking, live video, high performance communications, integrated safety sensors, access to digital safety applications, all support a leap in underground safety management

Reliable Communications

PTT over LTE delivers highly reliable mission-critical compliance; feature-rich communications including group or individual voice, text messaging, instant SOS with location and priority override

Greater control over operations

Near real-time analytics delivered by a high-speed network can enable faster analysis of production drives and downtime situations to rapidly adjust production planning

Greater Coverage

More pervasive nature of 4G LTE signal is less prone to line-of-site interruptions

Highly integrated network

Greater throughput, QoS and low latency supports live-video, voice and data on one network

Enabler of automation

A versatile 4G LTE network and our applications integration capabilities enables asset automation and sensor based (IoT) integration to support digital mining operations

A Trusted Partner

Aqura Technologies has extensive experience in supporting underground operations. Our in-house team spans wireless and fixed network engineering, project management and support and have successfully reviewed and upgraded a number of underground mine networks to support better performance and safety outcomes.

Talk to our in-house experts today about the benefits of 4G LTE for underground mining, and how we can assist you to achieve a better communications experience.

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