MSHA Approves Wireless Tracking System for Underground Mines

MSHA approved a wireless tracking system for use in underground mines, a development prompted by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006, which requires mine operators to adopt wireless communications and electronic tracking systems by June 2009.

"Since the Sago Mine disaster, MSHA has received dozens of proposals from manufacturers and distributors of emergency communication and tracking systems," said MSHA Administrator Richard Stickler. "This approved system provides a wireless means for mine operators to track miners underground both before and after an emergency event."

The MINER Act of 2006 stipulates that each mine evacuation plan must include provisions for tracking the pre-accident location of all underground miners. To help mine operators meet that requirement with current technology, the MSHA Approval and Certification Center authorized the use of Venture Design Services Inc.’s MineTracer Miner Location Monitoring System.

Jim Barrett, Venture’s Wireless Sensor Networks R&D manager, said in a statement that the system infrastructure addresses the MINER Act requirements. He pointed out that it enables wireless location tracking, communication and environmental monitoring in a single system.

The system’s components will be interconnected with low-voltage DC power cables during normal operations. In the event of an emergency, the power cables are de-energized and the system switches to battery power to ensure continuous, wireless operation. Venture Design also plans to incorporate text messaging and gas detection into the system’s design.

Since 2006, MSHA issued 36 new or revised communications and tracking system approvals, including leaky feeder systems, radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking system components and a hand-held portable radio. Currently, the agency is considering 41 additional communications and tracking applications.

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