In this digital age, we take it for granted that we can communicate instantly and reliably anytime, anywhere. But what about when you’re working deep underground? Implementing a robust, secure and fast communication network in an underground mining operation makes dealing with the WiFi dead zones in your home seem like child’s play.
At our Lamaque mine in Quebec, we’ve been working with our partners, Meglab and Bell, to implement a secure solution so our employees can communicate as easily below ground as above ground. This underground LTE network, which was finalised in August 2020, makes it easier to make decisions in real time, keep operations running productively and improve safety. The private system is resistant to cyber attacks and does not require any wires or major installations to operate, providing a simple, secure, flexible and mobile solution for employees to use underground.
We’ve already seen the benefits of the new network. Our teams can now communicate as individuals or in groups through clear video and audio calls. This enables those working underground to share visuals of potential issues with their above-ground colleagues – such as the condition of a machine or something that’s come up in operations. It’s even possible to connect with external experts by audio or video to troubleshoot any problems that need to be solved.
The new LTE system does more than allow our employees to communicate with each other. Data sharing is easier, too. Employees can access technical records from anywhere and reports can be directly completed on a tablet, speeding up our operations. Employees can interact with machines controlling various networks, such as pumping, filling, ventilation and electrical – particularly those used in the control room – and record and transmit equipment readings. These real-time readings ensure the networks are running as expected and quickly highlight any potential problems. Further improvements will eventually be possible by connecting with the VOD (Ventilation on Demand) system in one of many future projects.
Today’s mining operations depend on robust, reliable and fast communication, in all areas and levels of a mine site. By investing in a communications network that enables our employees working underground to securely communicate with each other in real time – and to access technical data – we’re improving working conditions, optimizing operational productivity and reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.