Ontario Mine Rescue implements new software

Mine rescuers are able to share map-related data of mining operations on mobile devices
Ontario Mine Rescue implements new software Ontario Mine Rescue implements new software Ontario Mine Rescue implements new software Ontario Mine Rescue implements new software Ontario Mine Rescue implements new software

With this new technology, mine rescue volunteers can communicate with above-ground coordinators.

Ontario Mine Rescue has recently signed a deal with Focus Field Solutions and Dräger Canada to deploy new communications technology in their operations.

It is now implementing the communications technology developed by Focus FS and, later, Dräger Canada, Vice President of Ontario Mine Rescue Ted Hanley told Mining Magazine

OMR took inspiration from mines installing wi-fi and LTE into their operating mines to improve production.

The body approached Focus FS to develop a system that would allow mine rescue volunteers in mine sites to communicate more easily with above-ground decision-makers, Hanley said.

Mine rescue organisations and volunteers had been severely limited by the lack of communications technology, he said.

"During a mine fire, for instance, the atmosphere is contaminated in the mine, so only trained individuals using breathing apparatus are allowed to enter the mine," he said.

"That leaves a lot of important decision-makers on the surface, not seeing or understanding what's going on."

With the new technology, on-site mine rescue volunteers will be able to communicate directly with above-ground coordinators, and even send images, he added.

Focus FS has designed a tablet, which is loaded with Focus FS Emergency Response software, to improve communications and enhance record-keeping in mine rescue incidents.

Mine rescuers are able to share map-related data of mining operations on mobile devices and computers, FFS said.

The software also allows users to zoom in to areas of the map, as well as add photos and notes to specific areas of maps during the ongoing mission.

This will eliminate the need for rescue volunteers to ascend to surface and update rescue team members about the ongoing operation.

The digital tools also enable rescue teams to manage and add equipment used in the rescue operation in real-time, eliminating communication snafus which could have disastrous consequences.

If internet cuts out at any point during the use of the software, the software will automatically apply any changes made to the digital maps once internet connectivity is reestablished.

The Focus FS software will also retain marked-up maps, notes, and oxygen readings following the completion of the rescue operation for investigations and reports.

OMR has begun to deploy the technology across its eight mining districts, starting with the Timmins region in northern Ontario earlier this year. Rollout across all districts will likely be completed by the March quarter of 2023, Hanley said.

OMR has been working towards technological upgrades since 2015, Hanley said. It kicked off a test project using a tablet in 2015, and continued until 2018.

The organisation also tested the system at a pilot project at the International Mine Rescue Competition in Sudbury in 2016. It also presented the need to use communications technology at the International Mine Rescue Conference in Russia in 2017.

Once the provincial ministry of labour increased the organisation's budget, OMR was able to enter into a contract with Focus FS in 2021. It is now under contract with both companies, with Dräger serving as the main distributor of the software.

Dräger acquired a stake in Focus FS in August 2019.

The main "hiccough" to the new telecommunications technology is that it's not applicable to coal mines, Hanley said.

"We're not quite there when it comes to an applicable solution for underground coal mining, because these projects need intrinsically safe electronics that can't cause an explosion in contaminated coal mines," Hanley said.

He acknowledged that this drawback is not an issue in Ontario, where there are few operating coal mines and no mines where methane and other gases could affect the technology.

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