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Coal India Limited witnessed 29 workplace fatalities in 2021 and 20 more deaths the following year. Across India, there were nine fatal mining accidents in 2020, each claiming 30 lives on average; additionally there were 97 serious accidents that year.
Underground mining operations face unique challenges due to the harsh environment and rough terrain. Traditional communication systems often fail to deliver timely information from the surface to underground workstations. Now, the Internet of Things (IoT) technology promises to fill this gap.
Researchers Ankit Singh and Prof Dheeraj Kumar of the department of mining engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Dhanbad, have mooted the idea of using IoT to develop an underground mining support system they call ‘Smart-SAGES (self-advancing goaf edge support)’. Their study suggests that IoT sensors can facilitate real-time communication, enabling quick response to hazardous situations.
The IoT sensors can continually monitor environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and toxic gases. Additionally, IoT facilitates remote monitoring of mining operations, including machine health, maintenance, drilling intelligence, and roof convergence.
The ability to take quick decisions can avert strata control problems and environmental hazards, thus ensuring the safety of mine personnel and costly machinery, their study paper says.
Prof Kumar, who is the Deputy Director of IIT-Dhanbad, says the system can instantly alert mining managers whenever any safety aspect is compromised. Resources can be allocated optimally, minimising errors and maximising operational efficiency, leading to energy and cost savings. Moreover, the data collected by IoT nodes can enable predictive maintenance and timely repairs, averting breakdown of equipment.