“Right off the bat, there was a 100% difference. We’ve got good communications throughout the whole mine. We can really keep track of people and keep things rolling better.“
How a Digital Network Transformed Burning Springs Mine
The “way we’ve always done it” was not working
Burning Springs Mine, an underground limestone mining operation in Petroleum, WV, opened in 1999 and until recently had been running a leaky feeder communications system. The personnel knew there was room for improvement, but that’s “the way it had always been.” It was common practice that when a miner’s piece of equipment broke down, he would have to tram for half an hour to get help. The crusher operator hadn’t talked to the loader operator by radio in years. And no one in the mine could communicate with anyone on the surface. However, all that changed when the mine went digital.
“Right off the bat, there was a 100% difference,” said Mine Foreman Allen Hoover, who oversaw installation of the high-speed N-Connex Digital Network. “We’ve got good communications throughout the whole mine. We can really keep track of people and keep things rolling better.“
Before the mine’s switch to digital communications, they were barely using their outdated leaky feeder system. If a miner needed to work on a project or order a part, they would have to go outside or wait until the end of the day. The N-Connex system, with a 2.4 gigabit fiber backbone, makes it possible for everyone to communicate instantly and clearly since they are all on the same system. Now, Hoover says that if there’s a breakdown, they are able to call for help and get back up and running as much as 45 minutes to an hour faster.
“They’re way more effective and productive,” said Brad Coats, Matrix Technical Sales Representative. “They can coordinate now – that’s the biggest thing. It has made the mine a thousand percent smaller.”
In addition to communications, Burning Springs also utilizes N-Connex’s cameras and tracking features. They have installed four cameras, which they describe as crystal clear, and plan to add more, particularly at transfers. They see cameras as another way to drive cost savings, such as identifying chute back-ups and saving belts.
With miner safety a top priority at Burning Springs, being able to track personnel and vehicles in case of an emergency is critical. The ability to instantly pinpoint a miner’s location means time saved when it is needed the most.
Burning Springs started with communications, cameras and tracking. But because N-Connex is a modular, scalable, plug-and-play system, mines can install a backbone and then add features in the future when they are needed. For example, down the road, Burning Springs may decide to include ventilation on demand and equipment monitoring/telemetry. Because the N-Connex backbone is in place, the mine can add features over time without starting over with a new system.
“N-Connex is almost limitless,” said Coats. “It can adapt to what you need it to be and grow with you.”
Burning Springs reports that the network was “rather simple” for two employees to install, and once the cable was in place, they just plugged it in and hooked it up. Because of its innovative design, N-Connex can be installed and maintained by existing personnel.
Burning Springs verdict on N-Connex: “It’s been great. The guys have all loved it so far. No complaints whatsoever with it,” concludes Hoover.
Putting Off a High-Speed Network Because of Cost? Time for a New Excuse.
Matrix’s N-Connex provides the most effective purpose-build digital mining network for the lowest up-front and long-term costs on the market today. In fact, its cost per mile is 40% less than other solutions, depending on requirements. It offers an innovative core network with many applications. Whether you are implementing voice communication, video automated ventilation, emergency evacuation technology, autonomous vehicle operation or simply underground internet capability, N-Connex’s solutions and applications enable its customers to expand or create an underground tracking and communications system specific to their varying needs.
Modular Plug-and-Play System
The simple beauty of the N-Connex system is its ability to meet your exact needs today and address your expansion or available resources tomorrow. With this adaptable/modular network, you can install a basic system, then add on features piece by piece over time. The system can even be installed and maintained by existing non-technical personnel. Modules are easy to deploy, disengage and redeploy with pre-terminated IP67 fiber and Ethernet cables.
Software and Applications
N-Connex’s digital mine software is designed for mining applications and is a powerful, user-friendly and intuitive software package that offers a range of modules designed to improve both safety and productivity. It features a multi-level map interface, zone management and real-time condition monitoring. Its emergency evacuation technology has alarm module and response management modes.
N-Connex offers the industry’s most reliable and durable communications solutions. Its IP voice communication is standards compliant and will allow multiple devices to connect and operate over the network. Voice and data communications enable private calls, PTT broadcast, IP intercom, phones, tables, laptops, wireless adapters, input/output devices, tracing tags, radios and more. The reception is crystal clear and calm with multiple channels over which you can talk individually or as a group.
N-Connex will handle all the data that your operation requires. It features underground internet capability and network access provided via Ethernet ports that support PoE/PoE+ and Wi-Fi. Its data provides mines the ability to make adjustments on demand and shift directions to affect output. Electronic forms and pre-starts can be automatically uploaded. Safety documents and photos can be immediately recorded and transmitted. Productivity information and mining software can be viewed an accessed. Any kind of reports you would normally fill out on the surface can now be filled out underground.
Control and Automation
N-Connex provides a reliable and robust data highway that supports both simple telemetry and complex automation of equipment. Monitoring and controlling electrical equipment, like fans and pumps, results in considerable cost savings and improved efficiencies. Similarly, automating equipment saves time, improves safety and enhances productivity. The Gigabit data backbone of N-Connex, combined with our wireless access points, provide the necessary infrastructure to support the most complex automation tasks.
The N-Connex tracking solution offers a reliable, detailed and flexible approach to tracking personnel, vehicles and assets throughout the mine. The tracking data’s rapid delivery over the high-speed network ensures the information is relevant and usable for mine management, or in the event of an emergency, safety and rescue teams.
N-Connex supports the use of IP cameras to monitor key locations in the mine. Cameras can be connected via Ethernet for Wi-Fi to N-Connex, providing video images in real time or on a frame rate that suits the application. N-Connex enables Power over Ethernet (PoE/PoE+) so that IP cameras can be connected directly without requiring additional external power. Shaft inspections can be performed remotely. Zones can be created, for example, around explosive materials storage, so that if the perimeter is broken, an alert will be sent. And site access can also be tied to video monitoring where required, including access gates, tag readers, various tag solutions and software.
N-Connex works with leading-edge providers of environmental, ventilation, gas and geotechnical monitoring systems to provide solutions that are innovative, reliable and accurate, enhancing operational efficiency and safety. This critical data can be used to automate production and safety processes or analyzed to fully understand the conditions in your operation. We’re integration experts, providing complete solutions that monitor critical conditions at your mine.
A suite of emergency features is provided through N-Connex’s alarm module and advanced evacuation technology. Health and safety are primary goals of the system.
For more information on N-Connex https://www.matrixteam.com/mining-networks/n-connex/