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Pyhäsalmi Mine Will Expand RFID System to Boost Safety

The Finnish mine is already using RFID to identify which trucks are onsite and which personnel are in the mines, and it plans to track detonators as well.
By Claire Swedberg and Mark Roberti

When entering the mineshaft, a worker taps his blue Idesco Sail Tag against an Idesco Access 7CE reader installed at the entrance. The reader captures the tag's ID number and forwards that information to Identoi's software via a cabled connection. The software then prompts that employee's name to be displayed on a large screen mounted above the entrance. If an individual brings a guest, that person uses a touchscreen connected to the Idesco reader to indicate how many guests he is bringing with him. The software stores that individual's ID so that management can view a real-time list of miners underground.

When leaving the mine, the worker must go through the same process. He places his tag near a second Idesco reader dedicated for outgoing foot traffic, and his name is then displayed on the same large screen, thereby indicating that he is leaving. This data is stored in the Identoi software so that the mine's management can view, at any time, who is in the mine and who has left, as well as how many individuals are there altogether.

One of the Idesco Access 7CE readers installed at the mine. (Photo provided by Pyhäsalmi Mine)
In the event of an emergency, workers are trained to report to one of 23 emergency shelters. At each shelter, the mine installed two Idesco HF readers, one that workers tap as they enter the shelter, and a second to be used as they exit. If miners who should be in an evacuation shelter are reported as not having tapped their tags at that location's entrance, the mine can use its voice communications and begin searching for those individuals, including calling them individually by radio. According to Vaara, the system uses HF RFID technology for staff management due to its short read range. With UHF, it would be possible to capture stray reads of individuals walking around near the entrance or evacuation shelters without actually entering.

In 2012, the mine installed UHF RFID technology so that it could record which trucks, vans and cars had entered its aboveground operations area. To enter the site, vehicles must pass a gate where an Idesco EPC UHF reader is installed with two antennas—one dedicated to incoming traffic, the other allocated for outgoing vehicles. Each authorized vehicle has an EPC UHF RFID tag, from one of a variety of companies, mounted on its windshield. By using UHF RFID readers, the company can capture the ID number as soon as the vehicle approaches the gate, and can then identify that vehicle, authorize the gate to open and create a record of who has entered and left the site.

This year, the mine also intends to use passive HF RFID tags to track detonators. Workers employ specialized vehicles to inject explosive materials into holes, and then insert detonators. The detonator manufacturer prints an ID number on each product in the form of a QR code. When deploying a detonator, a miner utilizes a handheld reader to interrogate his HF tag, and then scans the QR code to link his ID with that of the detonator, which is saved in the mine's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Later this year, the mine plans to attach an HF tag to each detonator, and a miner will uses a handheld unit to read both his own HF tag and that of the detonator.

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