Telemetry is the real-time transfer of digital data carried across wireless airwaves used to monitor and execute the key activities going on within an operating mine. Telemetry systems consist of nodes (i.e., data-collecting sensors) strategically placed over an area to collect and transfer specific data. Nodes are connected wirelessly to a central data collection center. With a completely wireless system – i.e. one that does not require wires for communication or wires for power – there are no wires to be damaged by mining activities, and there is no copper wire to be stolen.
While the range of data types that can be transferred over a wireless telemetry system are virtually endless, the safety benefits (and cost savings) of collecting geotechnical and environmental data make these sensor networks a top priority for most operating mines.
The costs of using remote sensing to see real-time changes in the environment, which could cause a catastrophic event within an underground mine, such as a cave-in or flooding event, are quickly outweighed by its benefits. In addition to saving lives, effectively using telemetry can save site resources, prevent unwanted shutdowns, and reduce errors. And in many cases, wireless solutions are proving significantly more cost-effective than their hardwired or manual monitoring alternatives.
Geotechnical instruments such as extensometers and contractometers can now be fully integrated with a telemetry system to monitor ground movement and forewarn operators and crews with sufficient time to evacuate a mine. Likewise, wireless gas detection sensors and vibrating wire piezometers can monitor air quality and water levels and send important readings via a telemetry system to surface or even off-site.
Mine telemetry, along with other mining support systems (e.g., computer-aided earthmoving, assisted drilling, and production monitoring and machine health), allows mines to operate more safely and efficiently when compared to traditional practices. Companies that invest in telemetry systems early see significant returns on their investment later.