Scope of Supply

The Ensham Mine project involved the commissioning, design, installation, and testing of a Northern Light Technologies’ (NLT) Digital System. NLT implemented a Reverse Tracking solution with Wi-Fi coverage (where required) for two-way messaging and VoIP communications.

The solution deployed provided Ensham Resources the ability to combine the Broadband Power Line Modem (BPLM) with suitable networking hardware and a local NLT access point on the Continuous Miners (CM). This maintained fibre connectivity to CM, resulting in reliable Wi-Fi that supports Tracking and Communication capabilities at the working face of the mine.

Site Detail

Ensham Resources’ Ensham Mine is located near Emerald in Queensland, Australia.

Ensham uses a board and pillar mining approach to protect the surface, which is a known flood plain. The life of the mine is planned until 2030, and, when in full production, will employ six continuous miners (CM). Ensham uses Northern Light Technologies for tracking and communication solutions throughout their mine.

Ensham Resources’ Engineering Manager, Brad Price, approached NLT to assist in resolving an issue they were experiencing maintaining Wi-Fi communications to the face of a board and pillar mine. The development rate of the mine meant that every five to seven days, the Wi-Fi and Network hardware had to be relocated; this was extremely time consuming and resulted in poor communications at the working face. Brad needed a solution that would easily provide reliable Wi-Fi tracking and communication at this most critical area of the mine.

Project Challenges

It was essential to maintain fibre connectivity to the NLT Access Point (Wi-Fi) network. The solution had to ensure fibre was maintained at the continuous miner (CM), whilst providing full Wi-Fi coverage on and around them. Because Ensham have up to nine headings, a Wi-Fi mesh solution could not be used cost-effectively. Additionally, since the CM turned a corner, a mesh solution wouldn’t function reliably.

Further investigation revealed Ensham used power line modems to get their Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) data over the CM trailing cable. The Broadband Power Line Modem (BPLM) could be combined with suitable networking hardware and a local NLT access point on the CM, enabling the fibre connectivity to be maintained.

Consequently, full Wi-Fi would be available on the CM or working face, providing tracking and communications at the most in-bye part of the mine.

Project Details

The solution included two (2) VLAN capable switches, a BPLM kit for Ethernet data to be carried over the trailing cable, and an NLT T3 compact node. The equipment was installed on the CM with the antennae facing out-bye and the associated DCB, which contained an existing process network. NLT connected to the process network through a managed VLAN capable switch, and BPLM on the DCB and the CM. This allowed both Process’ and NLT’s networks to be combined over a single cable, while still maintaining network security. This solution enabled tracking and communication to the NLT cap lamps and VoIP phones, with the CM data fully accessible from the surface.