With the Kidd Mine in Timmins being the deepest base metal mine in the world, Kidd Operations has made improved communications one of its key priorities.
That was brought forward by operations engineer Patrick Desmarais during the Beyond Digital Transformation mining conference held in Sudbury in February.
He outlined how the company had installed a fibre-optic network through the mine. That resulted in a complete underground Wi-Fi system, and in the past year it was followed up by giving every worker an iPhone for instant communication, from level to level and from surface to the bottom of the mine.
Kidd is a 9,889-foot deep mine, operating on 32 levels, and mining at the rate of 1.9 million tonnes per year.
"When you're mining at that depth, communications gets a lot harder. It's something we see in all underground mines. We're pretty deep down there and we want to keep communication up," Desmarais told the audience.
Desmarais revealed the decision to install a fibre-optic network in the mine was made back in the 2000s.
"We proactively put in our fibre backbone in 2006 when we had our D-Mine project.
"We were sinking four-shaft when we put our fibre backbone in. That put fibre into the shaft and into our refuge stations," he explained.
Then in 2012, he said, the fibreop net was expanded to all levels in the mine. Desmarais said this eventually supported the LHD (scooptram) automation project and the ventilation on demand (VOD) project.
"VOD is a big project that a lot of mines have, but obviously for us it had really big energy benefits on the vent side. So that paid for all that fibre work as well," he said.
Other benefits of the fibre-op system include personnel tracking through Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in the cap lamps and using RFID to track mobile equipment, he added.
Desmarais said despite all the options that were presented by fibre op, the company went through a prioritization process and determined that worker communications was essential.
"So the big driver for us when looking at expanding our network was we wanted to improve underground communications.
"We all know the issues of leakyfeeder (an underground radio comms system) so if we could get communications with text, phone calls, pictures, video, that would be awesome."
Desmarais said the mine also wanted to reduce the amount of paperwork, especially when dealing with operational prints, to ensure they were current and updated.
"When you're dealing with driving...