With its key focus remaining on the latest in mine safety technology, supplier Strata Worldwide has taken on significant growth in recent months, with more projected in 2012. Two of its newer products are quite a diverse pair: asset tracking and wet-mix shotcrete that can be pumped from the surface.
Just after the start of 2012, Strata Worldwide unveiled its Asset Tracker to monitor and track mobile equipment and machinery underground.
The wireless, battery-powered device can be fitted for any piece of mining equipment, including scoops, shuttle cars and supply cars, and uses the company’s CommTrac wireless communications and tracking system to transmit tracking information as well as vehicle identification data to the surface.
The information received is logged into and displayed on a digital mine map and is automatically refreshed every 60 seconds by all of the communication system’s nodes. Tracking is accurate mine-wide to within 50 feet.
With the Strata CommTrac graphical user interface, operators can view and track the movements and activities of mobile units in actual time, and can easily view and monitor vehicles’ travel time, vehicle-to-vehicle interaction time and downtime as well as calculate and log productivity metrics.
“To date, mines have very limited methods of measuring the productivity of their mines,” electronic safety engineering vice president and general manager Tom Michaud said.
“With asset tracking, mine operators can know where every piece of equipment is at all times and can use this data to optimize operations efficiency and maximize productivity.”
Those mines already outfitted with a Strata CommTrac wireless communications and tracking system need only the installation of individual Asset Tracker devices on machinery for immediate asset tracking abilities. No additional infrastructure is required.
“Wireless asset tracking is just one product in a new suite of offerings Strata is bringing to market in 2012,” the company said, noting that mine-wide monitoring, wireless atmospheric monitoring, proximity safety data and revolutionary advancements in underground communications are all on the way.
Conversely, on a completely different end of the product spectrum, Strata has also recently announced its development of a better solution for coating mine roofs, ribs, ventilation corridors, walkways and even airtight overcasts – a wet-mix shotcrete that is easier to use and more time efficient than gunite.
“Since the mining industry has long used dry-mix gunite for covering underground mine surfaces and constructing ventilation structures, Strata examined the issues and identified detriments to this traditional method and determined ways to resolve these with the use of wet-mix shotcrete,” Strata Mine Services’ Chuck Pulver said.
“From there, [we] worked to develop and formulate [our] own concrete mix, and the first-ever wet-mix shotcrete that can be pumped from the surface.”
Dry-mix solutions often, by nature of design, create significant dust. This, in turn, can create issues for workers downwind and in the vicinity and can have an overall negative impact on miner health and safety once the mixture makes its way into vent circuits.
With the wet-mix solution, dust exposure is reduced, plus crews no longer have to earmark labor time for the placement and loading of large, heavy gunite bags and no supplies need to be kept underground. Instead, Strata crews perform all of the work at the pump and nozzle with minimal interference to or effect on mining crews.
Wet-mix shotcrete is also about twice as fast in the rate of application than the traditional dry-mix solution, the company said, and is more reliable and consistent in its application and the risk of nozzleman error is eliminated with Strata staff performing the work.
Finally, the design of pumping the wet-mix from the surface also eliminates the need for an intrinsically-safe and permissible wet pump, equipment that is rather scarce in North America; traditional shotcrete pumps are not permitted underground under federal regulations.
Strata first tested the application at a coal operation in West Virginia last October. Crews made note of the positives as well as issues needing to be rectified.
“As the horizontal component of the material pumping lengthens, this operation will become more challenging,” he said.
“It is expected that if success with this method continues, we may be pumping wet-mix shotcrete mixes as far as 1,500 feet horizontally after 1,000ft down the shaft within the next year.”
Strata Worldwide L.L.C. is recognized as a global leader in mine safety solutions. The company’s product line includes wireless communications and tracking systems, emergency mine refuge chambers, secondary roof support products, proximity detection systems and mining construction services. Strata is committed to the design and development of technologies that are beneficial for today and that lay a foundation for improved solutions in the future. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the company has service and sales support offices in the mining regions of the U.S., Europe, Australia, South Africa, China and Mexico.