Communication Infrastructure Guideline

Mine Lifeycle Reference diagram and Business Requirements checklists mark progress towards a global communications infrastructure standard.

The Communications Infrastructure Sub-committee of the Underground Mining Working Group has advanced their progress toward creating guidelines for utilizing current communication technology in underground mining. The sub-committee held a workshop on November 24 at the Barrick offices in Toronto, Ont., led by group leader Dave Fry, Director of IT Infrastructure, Security and Compliance at Yamana Gold.

The sub-committee objective is to research and evaluate the current communications systems and methodologies used in the modern mining industry and develop a reference tool for existing standards and solutions for implementation of communications in underground mining.

As new video, voice and data communications technology are developed at exponential rates, and new standards are drafted just as quickly, many mine personnel are unequipped to execute those solutions. The guideline will work as a key tool for mine operators, planners, engineers and other personnel.

“The importance of digital communications infrastructure in the underground mine is becoming paramount with the need to support such a broad scope of services and data. Production efficiency, cost optimization and safety now rely on new technologies which were unavailable less than a decade ago,” said Fry. “It is critical to ensure underground mine development incorporates the infrastructure to support these new technologies throughout the lifecycle of the mine in order to gain the advantage in the tight economic environment we see globally today and into the future.”

Advancing the Underground Communications Infrastructure Guideline

Members attending the workshop produced a final draft of the Mine Lifecycle Communications Reference diagram, which provides a visual representation for non-IT personnel on general to high level requirements of underground mining communications requirements. The diagram brings awareness to various progressions and considerations to every stage of a mine’s lifecycle, from first stages to its retirement. Currently under Working Group review, the diagram will become publicly available in early 2016.

The sub-committee also defined the form and content of the Business Requirements document, which provides a checklist for specific milestones in a mine’s lifecycle, which must be considered in the development of a mine’s communications infrastructure. The checklists are aligned with the Maturity Lifecycle Communications Reference diagram and are designed to be available for on-site mining professionals, including operators, managers, engineers, maintenance and environmental teams. An initial draft will be created by the end of December for review. The subcommittee also launched a discussion on the guideline document format, initial content and the table of contents.

“These guidelines are meant to help mining companies consider the general design requirements, available standards, and best practices to implement an effective, robust, expandable communications foundation for video, voice and data throughout the life of the mine,” said Fry.

Moving Forward

The key to the success of the Underground Communications Infrastructure Guideline is further support from the global mining industry. Feedback from mining company personnel during review periods is crucial in developing a concise, reliable and effective guideline that will increase efficiency and safety within mine operations.

The sub-committee will hold another workshop in February 2016; the exact date and location is still being determined. For more information on the Communications Infrastructure Guideline or to join the UG Communications Infrastructure Sub-committee, please contact Jennifer Curran.