It is of utmost importance to maintain safety in mining by responding timeously to impending incidences. One means to this end is the use of real-time monitoring to create a buffer zone between danger and mining personnel. The work presented in this paper is part of research being undertaken at the Wits Mining Digital Mining project (DigiMine). The DigiMine project aims to introduce innovative solutions to mining challenges by utilising modern technologies. In this study, wireless technology crack meters are employed in an attempt to improve the monitoring of crack displacement in geotechnically challenging environments. The advantages of wireless connections and a comparison of wireless sensor networks is highlighted in the paper. The influence of joints in reducing the structural integrity of rock masses is also tested using Phase 2 and JBlock software.
Data from wireless technology crack meters installed in the DigiMine is transmitted to a central control room where it is managed by Vibratech software called Logger Net. The crack displacements in the DigiMine were minor. Should the crack displacement be of concern, an autonomous distress message is sent to the area of danger. Real-time monitoring of geotechnical environments results in better decision making in minimising geotechnical hazards such as falls of ground. The successful application of the system may improve safety and assist the industry in achieving the goal of Zero Harm. The system becomes the guardian angel of mines by alerting personnel in real-time of any geotechnical hazards such as falls of ground before they occur.
Safety in the mining industry has been a long standing challenge. Between 1974 and 1994, the industry averaged 800 fatalities and 18 000 injuries per year (Ramatlhodi, 2015), of which most are due to falls of ground (FOG) accidents. In 2016, 73 fatalities were recorded as opposed to 77 in the previous year, with the gold sector accounting for 30 out of the 73 fatalities (Zwane, 2017). The Wits Digital Mining project (DigiMine) is focused on providing solutions to the industry's challenges using modern technology to improve both environmental conditions and financial economics. The DigiMine technology aims to assist the industry in achieving the goal of Zero Harm, more efficient and simpler data collection, improved mining efficiency, improved safety and security and mining on demand (Cawood, 2015). The use of wireless technology crack meters is proposed for the monitoring of crack displacements in underground environments to create a buffer zone between mine personnel and danger. Information from various crack meters installed in the underground mining environment is processed and analysed in a control room in real-time to gather data about the status of potential hazards.