IWT Applications Engineer Jason Jarrett presented "Underground Communication Innovation" at the 2018 North American Tunneling Conference in Washington D.C., June 25, 2018.
Tunnels are rugged environments with large moving equipment, explosives and hazards including water, dust and gas. To date, there are few underground communication and tracking systems available for tunnel projects that support OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliance. After the 2006 Sago Mine disaster, research and development was performed to improve communication systems for the underground environment. Today, over 250 US mines utilize these new technologies to improve productivity, reduce costs and enhance safety. This paper explores these new technologies and provides guidance for planners through the process of selecting a tunnel communication solution. It reviews the key requirements and constraints for consideration and provides an overview of various communication and networking technologies and discusses their strengths and weaknesses.