Technology to monitor miners underground selected

A meeting was held in the Pniówek mine to summarize the annual work performed by a special team appointed by the JSW Management Board for the purpose of selecting solutions to significantly upgrade the standards of communications, identification and monitoring of employees working underground in JSW’s mines soon.

photo: Dawid Lach

The meeting assumed the form of broad interdisciplinary consultations, as, apart from the JSW team, specialists from the State Mining Authority, Central Mining Rescue Station (CSRG) in Bytom, KGHM, PGG, LW Bogdanka SA, Tauron Wydobycie, AGH University of Science and Technology, Silesian University of Technology and GIG participated in the discussion. 

All attendees found the operation of systems for identification and location of employees in underground mines particularly important, especially in the case of acts of God and rescue campaigns.

“We have analyzed and tested in our mines all solutions that are available today on the global market for almost a year now. We adopted unambiguous real-time identification and location of every employee sought in mine workings with the greatest precision possible as the primary criterion that is of interest to us. If destroyed, the system must enable fast recovery of historical data and indication of the most recent location of each miner before the incident. The laborious work of two teams: the scientific and working ones, enabled us to choose a technology based on the method of received signal strength (RSS), which performed best in tests”, says Artur Dyczko, Representative for Strategy and Development of Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa. “We want to ponder over the path we have chosen together with our colleagues from other mining companies, scientists and representatives of the mining supervision. We wish to share our experiences and ask about theirs. We should also think if the standard we have developed could be applied in the whole Polish mining industry”, added Artur Dyczko.

Nine companies volunteered for the tests in JSW. The initial verification allowed a reduction of the number to only four companies, which used two distinct team monitoring technologies. All of them were tested in excavated mine workings of JSW mines in the same conditions.

“In the Budryk mine, the tests lasted three months in the mining branch. All four crews from all shifts were equipped with tags and connected to the system, which enabled also the continuous monitoring of the location of the roadheader. The precision of the measurement was even less than 1.5 meters. I can say that the system we tested was a one hundred percent success,” describes Jarosław Rutkowski, Technical Director of the Budryk mine.

During the discussion in Pniówek, it turned out that all Polish mining companies were looking for specific solutions to enhance mining crew safety and had already performed some tests.

KGHM applies a system that is similar to the one selected in JSW but their focus was the location of machines (currently, 110 machines in 4 branches are monitored). As regards crew monitoring, as KGHM specialists said, the process was at its initial stage. LW Bogdanka has been testing crew monitoring systems for four years but it has not chosen a suitable technology yet. Polska Grupa Górnicza is testing a system in the Staszic mine.

Dariusz Wójcik from the State Mining Authority congratulated JSW on their approach to the problem. “Perhaps, all that has been discussed for a few years will be implemented on a larger scale.”

The rescue workers from the Central Mining Rescue Station in Bytom also complimented the idea of introducing a crew location and identification system at JSW. “If the system allows the identification of an employee’s location in the event of emergencies with the accuracy of not necessarily two but even five meters, it will still be an enormous support in search campaigns. There is no doubt about it. If there is a reliable and tested technology, it should be used,” said Tomasz Konwerski from CSRG.

The decision to commence works on introducing a crew monitoring system in JSW mines was made soon after the disaster in the Zofiówka Section, which happened on 5 May 2018 and caused the death of 5 miners. The rescue campaign lasted 14 days and was considered the most difficult in the history of Polish mining.