Digital Underground System Implementation Guidelines for Non-experts

The Global Mining Standards and Guidelines Group (GMSG) recently published the first two parts of the Underground Mine Communications Infrastructure Guideline: Positioning and Needs Analysis, and Scenarios and Applications. The guideline is intended to provide a high-level view of the processes needed by mine owners and operators to meet planning and design requirements when creating or replacing underground mine communications infrastructure.

Montreal, Canada-based GMSG is a nonprofit organization established to oversee the development of guidelines for mining stakeholders to improve the safety, operational, environmental, and financial performance of the mining industry.

According to the organization, rapid development of new technologies has led to a shift from traditional analog communication systems to high-speed digital network frameworks. While these digital systems improve production and increase cost-efficiency, there is a gap in knowledge and experience needed to correctly plan, design, deploy and maintain these modern systems. When complete, the guideline is intended to solve that problem.

“With this document, a mine manager does not need to be an IT or instrumentation expert to understand the communication infrastructure requirements of the mine from start to finish,” explained Jean-Guy Pelletier, corporate director of maintenance at Agnico Eagle, and subcommittee member. “This guideline will not only succeed in helping the team design, engineer, construct and utilize the communication of an underground mine the first time, but it will also be an integral part of the communication plan of mine site as a whole.”

Part 1, Positioning and Needs Analysis, provides a general overview of the guideline objectives and audience, as well as a mine communications maturity life-cycle diagram. This diagram provides a high-level overview of the services and supporting technology that is generally used in each phase of the mine life cycle.

Part 2, Scenarios and Applications, offers scenarios of practical applications of communications infrastructure design in underground mining today and in the near future. The business services design requirements comprise a series of checklists on the general tasks and components needed for each phase of underground mine planning and development. The checklist helps mine personnel and contractors identify the appropriate network communications technologies to support required services and solutions.

The introduction to the guideline document pointed out that many new technologies developed and sold by vendors require high-speed digital networks to manage the increasing volumes of data generated in the underground mining environment. The data range from video and voice communications to vehicle telemetry, dispatch, and other critical systems and services.

“In the past, each vendor required separate networks for their proprietary solutions,” the introduction stated. “Today, industrial control and mining solution vendors are moving toward a single standardized, consolidated communications infrastructure based on the digital Ethernet (transmission control protocol/internet protocol or TCP/ IP) network framework — or at least are developing communications interfaces to allow their devices to interconnect with this type of network — in mine sites to improve production and cost optimization. This allows mining companies to run multiple services over a single backbone, thereby improving management while lowering deployment and support costs. The rapid shift from traditional, legacy analog systems (e.g., leaky feeder) to high-speed digital networks has created a lag in the knowledge and experience that is required to properly plan, design, deploy and maintain such systems.

“The Underground Mine Communications Infrastructure Guidelines series is intended to provide a high-level view of the processes needed by mine personnel to meet planning and design requirements when creating or replacing underground mine communications infrastructure. The series of five parts is intended to step the user through the general tasks and components needed to define the technical requirements for an underground communications infrastructure that supports mine services now and into the foreseeable future.”

According to GMSG, the five parts within the Underground Mine Communications Infrastructure Guidelines series are arranged so the user learns a fundamental concept and then builds on his or her knowledge in each consecutive part. In addition to the two parts recently released, the finished document will also include Part 3 (General Guidelines), presenting information to help the reader better understand the general concepts, techniques, and methods used in the industry to create and maintain a communications infrastructure. The content, said GMSG, is designed to help non-information technology (IT) personnel identify high-level requirements, and to provide resources to learn more on the technologies. Part 4, Business Case Development, focuses on the development of the business case and charter; and Part 5, Planning, Deploying, and Support Considerations, will provide detailed project management practices, communications infrastructure technical design information, and sustainability support information.

The Underground Communications Infrastructure Guideline sections Positioning and Needs Analysis and Scenarios and Applications are available for download from the GMSG library at

As featured in Womp 2017 Vol 06 -