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System speeds communications. (Mining).

For years Walter Siggelkow heard how dysfunctional the mining communication system were, so he and his staff at Hard-Line Solutions constructed a digital system that will forever change the mining industry, should mining gurus decide to use it.

"It is a communication infrastructure that gives you data, video and voice," Siggelkow, general manager and part owner of Hard-Line Solutions explains.

Other systems were developed by competitors to provide access to voice and underground phones, however, when it came to the transference of computer data, communication systems did not have enough bandwidth so information was sparse, Siggelkow adds.

"It would be like a dial-up connection was ten years ago," Siggelkow explains.

"It would transfer some data, but not enough for what the mines want them to do."

Now with the new micro-cellular technology, the digital communication system allows for wired and wireless data, and video information to get to the receiver within less than a second (time equivalent to a blink of an eye).

"We developed a system that will give full two-way communication (with) a backbone (wired hardware) of 100 megabits. That is 100 million bits per second."

An example of hardwired transmission is the underground office computers. Time charts, work orders and invoicing can be channeled through the main frame via the digital communicator. Ventilation and control systems including seismic ground monitoring can also become part of the communication process through hardwiring. The underground systems transmit low frequency waves, which can be transferred through the rock, Siggelkow explains. However, more recent technology like that required to operate a load haul dump (LHD) machine underground from surface requires extra megabits, since it considered high frequency waves and cannot be transmitted through the rock.

"The wireless part (the digital communication system) gives us 11million bits per second," Siggelkow adds.

For example, the digital communication system enables mines to monitor the amount of muck being scooped from an LHD by the transference of information from the mined area to surface by computers.

Not only does the system hook machines into the network, it also connects workers through the use of hand-held computers.

To put this into perspective, downloading information from a cable Internet connection to your home computer usually takes two megabits per second, he says.

"That is what you get when your whole neighborhood block is not sharing the bandwidth."

So this communication system allows five to 50 times more bandwidth than the average household computer, Siggelkow compares.

Goldcorp Inc. in RedLake has had this communication system in place for two years, while Inco Ltd. allowed Hard-Line Solutions to install it in the north of the North Mine site in Sudbury last month, where technologists and administration can monitor its success.

"They (Inco) have the voice over IP system, they have the tracking software, so we can track workers underground and it works, and we also have the Man Working Alone system."

The working alone system refers to the solitary active workers in different parts of the mine. It will call the employee up in two hours and if he or she does not respond after three times, then it automatically calls his or her supervisor. If there is no reply, the system will elevate to a third level and higher until someone has responded.

"This is all done through a paging system (that) the telephones have," Siggelkow says.

Ultimately, he says the digital communication system is long overdue in the mines and by installing it would be like "giving sight to a blind man."

The company is no stranger to the mining world. Approximately 35 per cent of their business is done in countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru and Africa with a majority of their business initiatives right here in Canada.
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Title Annotation:Hard-Line Solutions constructed a digital system for mining
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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