COMMUNICATION VS INFORMATION NETWORKS IN MINING
Data networks within mines have evolved dramatically in recent years from being simply a form of enabling communication between personnel to something which now must also support a range of connected devices and systems.
When it comes to establishing the right network however, the traditional forms of networks which are typically found in mines – from mine phones, to traditional leaky feeder systems to wireless infrastructures – are not able to provide the new data heavy form of connectivity that is required.
Many of these networks are purpose built purely for communication and while still widely used in mines across the globe, they are historically incapable of transferring data between devices.
In today’s mining, operations now focus on creating data driven information networks which can support a broader range of capabilities including communication, high-speed digital connections, telemetry and a variety of other devices and systems – rather than focusing purely on point-to-point communication.
Doing this cost effectively can be a challenge, especially since mines most commonly rely on fiber optic networks for digital data access and information transmission.
The primary challenge with fiber, other than cost, is that it can be very prohibitive in how it is set up. Using fiber, operations are essentially having their network and device placement dictated by the limitations of the fiber optic cabling, rather than putting these devices where they are most needed.
Fiber requires trained specialists to install and maintain the connections, and it also requires an external power supply.
Coaxial cable-based networks– like Strata’s DigitalBridge™ – offer a much more flexible alternative, with the same capabilities.
Not only is coaxial more flexible, cost effective and easier to install and maintain, but it also provides the full range of information connectivity and two-way communication that mines require.
As well as providing voice communication, these cables can be used to connect digital devices and transfer data to any point in the mine and – as a communication backbone – are much more resilient than fiber.
DigitalBridge™ does not require a wholesale change of a network and can be interoperable with existing fiber networks to boost connectivity or offer more robust connections in areas of high activity.
What has become essential in planning for today’s modern mine is moving beyond simply installing communication networks, to installing networks that meet the data driven and connectivity demands of today’s operations.