MSHA Approves First Wireless Miner Tracking System

MSHA has issued its first official approval of a wireless tracking system for use in underground mines, achieving a key milestone that some congressional Democrats have been demanded. The approval was issued by MSHA's Approval and Certification Center to Venture Design Services Inc. for the MineTracer Miner Location Monitoring System.

"Since the Sago Mine disaster, MSHA has received dozens of proposals from manufacturers and distributors of emergency communication and tracking systems," said Richard Stickler, the agency's acting chief. "This approved system provides a wireless means for mine operators to track miners underground both before and after an emergency event."

The system components normally will be interconnected with low-voltage DC power cables, but if the cables become de-energized in an emergency, the system will resort to battery power and can remain operational wirelessly. "Although not yet incorporated in the design, Venture Design intends to add text messaging and gas detection to the system in the future," MSHA said.

Since 2006, MSHA has issued 36 new or revised approvals for communications and tracking systems, including a hand-held portable radio, leaky feeder systems, and RFID tracking system components. Another 41 approval applications, including several wireless communications and tracking systems, are in process.

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