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Green and intelligence are leading the coal industry towards growth. In China, there are more than 5,300 coal mines across the country, each with its own complexities and geological conditions. Intelligence has proven vital for the high-quality development of the industry. As such, intelligent coal mining has been in progress for almost 10 years, replacing strenuous patterns with more holistic models, but a number of challenges still remain unsolvable. But as 5G technologies mature, this situation seems to be turning around and we can see potential solutions ahead.

5G Is Already a Top Priority for Coal Mining

On June 7, 2021, China issued a guideline for measures promoting 5G applications in the energy sector. Regarding coal mining, the guideline proposed further advancement in smart coal mining, particularly the construction of 5G network infrastructure for underground and ground operations, and the development of converged management, enterprise cloud, and big data platforms. The ultimate aim is to put in place a coal-mining industrial Internet that features cloud-edge-device coordination. 5G supports high-speed connections with low latency, high capacity, and solid reliability. Such strength adds support for underground inspection and security, driverless systems, smart production, environment and safety monitoring, virtual interaction, and many other smart mining applications.

Can 5G Networks Cover Complex Mining Wells?

Mining wells are dusty, stretch across long distances, are packed with devices, and subject communications to multipath interference. But despite this, 5G has shown great results, and the benefits are clear.
First, 5G enhances safety, quality, and efficiency, transforming coal mining with smart solutions.
Jinneng Holding Group is a good example in this regard. It has transformed fully mechanized caving faces with smart solutions enabled by China Mobile, China Unicom, and other operators, making all mining faces 100% intelligent in its Tower and Tongxin mines. This has enabled the mines to increase its daily production to 45,000 tons, reaping marked improvement in both efficiency and investment returns. All this stems from the 5G coverage in both the underground and ground areas with the support from mobile network operators since 2020. 128 5G base stations are in operation to ensure smooth communication for explosion-proof mobile devices, HD video transmission, smart analysis, robot inspection, and narrowband (NB) sensors.
Second, 5G makes it possible to remotely monitor and inspect underground environments in real time, showing the status of wells from handheld devices.
In Jinneng’s coal mines, a 5G 10-Gigabit industrial ring network featuring converged wireless and mobile connectivity is already operational. It enables efficient remote control of underground equipment used in the fully mechanized caving faces, such as roadheaders, extractors, and hydraulic support. Under this enablement, explosion, extraction, and conveying can be monitored and controlled with a high definition and maintained with a full set of coordinated measures. In the future, mines will be able to fully utilize 5G, working with AI to realize the potential of industrial robots and support smart energy consumption management and driverless underground transport.
Third, 5G helps relocate control centers from underground to above ground and makes coal mining less dependent on or even free from manual labor.
Fully mechanized mining faces are vital to modern coal mining, and these processes are completed in some of the harshest and most complex environments out there. Thanks to 5G deployments in coal wells, workers can perform duties at least 200 meters away from the fully mechanized mining faces, moving them away from the hazards involved in working with high temperatures and humidity in the dusty underground space. The working conditions are improved to ensure safety while reducing the workload.
5G accelerates smart production and management and profoundly upgrades the ways the coal mining industry produces, while also improving safety and efficiency. It is a brand new option for those looking to seek smart transformation in the mining industry.

Intelligent coal mining is not merely a simple combination of advanced technologies and intelligent systems. Rather, it involves integrating next-generation information technology with coal mining operations. The growing integration of 5G technology in coal mining will no doubt accelerate the process of transformation of coal mines. A huge lineup of leaders, including Huawei, have stepped into the coal mining industry and increased their efforts in fundamental research, product customization, standardization, and product delivery.