Occupational Health & Safety

MSHA Approves Mine Emergency Communications System

The MagneLink™ Magnetic Communication System is a wireless, through-the-earth communication system developed by Lockheed Martin and tested successfully in three mines, according to the company.

Lockheed Martin announced July 20 that MSHA has approved its MagneLink™ Magnetic Communication System, which is a wireless, through-the-earth communication system for use during emergencies in underground mines. Lockheed Martin says the system was developed in coordination with NIOSH and has been tested successfully in three mines; a company spokeswoman said confirmation of MSHA's approval arrived the evening of July 19.

Wireless emergency communications is a requirement of the MINER Act that was enacted five years ago, after the Sago Mine explosion in January 2006 in Upshur County, W.Va. In a blog post dated June 15 about the act's five-year anniversary, MSHA Administrator Joe Main wrote, "We are finally seeing the installation of wireless or nearly wireless two-way communications and electronic tracking systems, as mandated by the MINER Act. I have no doubt that these impressive technologies would not have been developed for coal mines by the private sector had the MINER Act not adopted its aggressive technology-forcing provisions five years ago."

MCS transmits magnetic waves through the earth without the transmission wires and in-ground infrastructure currently required to communicate via standard radio communications, according to Lockheed Martin, which says it is a portable system for two-way voice and text communications that "operates at ranges sufficient to communicate from the surface into shallow-to-deep underground mines.

"The system will bring a tremendous emergency communications capability to the mining industry in the event of an accident where miners are trapped and have no other means of communicating with rescue teams on the surface," according to the company.

The demonstrations took place in December 2009 at a mine in Dilliner, Pa.; in March 2010 at a mine in Mavisdale, Va., where two-way text and voice communications were tested successfully to a depth of 1,550 feet and two-way text communications in excess of 1,550 feet; and in June 2010 at the NIOSH Test Mine in Bruceton, Pa.

Lockheed Martin signed a reseller agreement in June 2011 with Carroll Technologies Group through which Carroll Technologies Group will be the system's distributor, sales, and service supplier.

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