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Mine Communications Interoperability Workshop

Mine operators are starting to deploy MSHA-approved communications and electronic tracking systems to satisfy requirements of the MINER Act. Primary systems deployed for normal, day-to-day operations support multiple voice and data channels. However, secondary post-accident emergency systems are typically very limited in bandwidth (e.g., 20 kb/s for medium frequency systems, 10 b/s for through-the-earth systems).

NIOSH and NIST presented a vision of the future of survivable mine communications in which a low bandwidth secondary communications channel would be used as a backup for the primary communications system. A key part of the concept is that in the event that communications to surface via the primary system is disrupted, then the miner would be able to communicate out through the secondary system using the same handset or text device as normally used with the primary systems.

NIOSH and NIST foresee many issues in trying to realize such a vision, many of which require cooperation amongst manufacturers. The workshop was organized as a forum for only mining communications and tracking systems manufacturers and experts to discuss the technical challenges.


National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Office of Mine Safety and Health Research

National Institute of Standards and Technology
Advanced Network Technologies Division

Over a period of one and a half days, the speakers presented their perspectives on the following issues:

  1. How would they, as an equipment manufacturer, envision such a system working, given the challenges of making high-bandwidth systems interoperate with low bandwidth systems?
  2. What would be required or desirable in an interoperable system as described, and what are the technical hurdles?
  3. From an equipment manufacturer's perspective, what is the appropriate level of involvement of government agencies in realizing such a system, particularly R&D agencies (i.e., NIOSH) or in the area of standards development (i.e., NIST)?

Specifically, the following presentations were made in the first day of the Workshop:

  • Joe Waynert, NIOSH/OMSHR "Interoperability Workshop"
  • Dave Snyder, NIOSH/OMSHR "Survivable Systems Concept of Operation"
  • Nader Moayeri and Michael Souryal, NIST "Network Modeling and Simulation of Mine Communication Systems"
  • Andy O'Neil, L-3 Communications "ACCOLADE: Primary to Secondary Communication Interfacing"
  • Jack Jones, Becker Wholesale Mine Supply "MSHA and Part 23 Approved Leaky Feeder System"
  • Patrick Murphy, Kutta Technologies "Mine Communication Interoperability Workshop"
  • Thomas Parks, Lockheed Martin "Through-the-Earth Communication System"
  • Dan Burris, E-Spectrum Technologies "Ultra Low Frequency Through-the Earth Communication Technology"

The second day of the workshop began with a presentation by Dave Snyder (NIOSH/OMSHR) on use of gateways to achieve interoperability based on discussions in the first day.  This presentation can be found here.  The participants identified primary/secondary interoperability gaps through a group discussion and discussed the following issues:

  1. Is there an interoperability issue?
  2. How do we proceed?
    • Is there a need for another meeting?
    • Is there a role for NIOSH or NIST
    • Are there action items?
  3. How useful was this meeting? What should be done differently?
Created June 6, 2011, Updated September 21, 2016