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Xstrata Mines RFID's Benefits

To help it track personnel and improve safety and productivity, the company's coal division has rolled out a Wi-Fi-based active RFID system.
By Dave Friedlos
Nov 04, 2008International mining group Xstrata has completed its rollout of a Wi-Fi-based active RFID system to track staff, improve safety and raise productivity at its Beltana Coal Mine in New South Wales, Australia. The company's coal division has installed 200 active RFID tags, supplied by AeroScout, into the battery packs of cap lamps worn by the miners.

Luke Dyer, project coordinator of Xstrata's coal division, says the company decided to investigate a personnel- and equipment-tracking system at the same time that it purchased new cap lamps, in order to improve mine safety and productivity.

"A tracking system provides invaluable information to mining officials in the event of an emergency, and allows them to plan and react in a more focused and timely manner," Dyer says. Knowing the exact location of personnel during an emergency, he adds, allows mine officials to better manage the situation.

The system, according to Dyer, "could also allow some automation of certain safety systems that are currently largely based on manual auditing, such as whether there are enough CABA [compressed-air breathing apparatus] pods in a particular underground section."

In addition to providing safety benefits, radio frequency identification is also expected to improve productivity, because the technology reduces the time that would otherwise be spent looking for personnel. What's more, if the tags are attached to equipment and tools, Xstrata could track them in real time, managing such items more effectively and thus increasing their utilization in the mine.

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