Audio and visual communication systems
In this section you learn about the different ways of communication underground back in the days. Since the miners faced different challenges due to the circumstances in the mines, various audio as well as visual communication systems existed.
Compared to the long history of material extraction technologies, the development of mining communication systems is relatively young. It was not until the early 1900’s that communication equipment begun appearing in underground mines (“Underground mine communications, control, and monitoring”, 1984).
This appears particularly surprising since an efficient and successful communication system is of vital importance for not only the workers’ safety but also for optimizing the mine’s productivity. Slow or misleading communication can cause accidents and delays (McKern, 2016).
Slide to see how different the mines looked like in the old and modern days.
Nevertheless, a relatively wide variety of different forms of communications systems and technologies was developed, employed, and refined in order to ensure reliable communication in the mines. This was for sure not an easy task! Many of the communication tools that were widely used above ground were unusable or had to be modified for underground use since the harsh conditions in the mines created a rather communication-hostile environment (McKern, 2016).
There are many challenges that mines pose for a reliable communication system. A few of these are:
Workers and equipment are spread over an extensive underground area
The underground tunnels are often only a few meters wide, while being several kilometers long
Due to ongoing extractions, the overall field and the single tunnels are constantly growing and thus the communication system needs to be flexible enough to cope with this dynamic coverage area (Ranjan & Sahu, 2013, p.23)
Additionally, poor lighting conditions, the constant noises of loud machines, high dust and gas concentrations, and varying levels of humidity render communication difficult.
Hence, a safe and reliable communication system needs to be intrinsically safe and needs to be designed in a way that it can withstand the harsh conditions of this hostile environment.
Thus, a few aspects need to be considered when designing or examining an underground mine communication system:
Since the loud and dark environment of underground mines pose difficulties for both audio and visual communication strategies, it was common to employ a combination of different systems and technologies.
Here you can watch a short video to get an impression of how it was like working down below in the coal mines
As you could see from the video above, the mine was very loud and dark. This environment would pose some difficulties for both audio and visual communication strategies. That is why it was common to employ a combination of different systems and technologies of both fields.