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.
Over a period of one and a half days, the speakers presented their perspectives on the following issues:
Specifically, the following presentations were made in the first day of the Workshop:
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: