Part 1: Issue of deploying Enterprise wireless in the Mining environment

The purpose of this blog post is to highlight some of the issues that I have faced over the past 6 years of trying to deploy enterprise and non enterprise wireless solutions in the mining industry.

Given the need for mobility,  guest access  and the demand for increased productivity, I have seen a dramatic increase in enterprise wireless networks being deployed in the mining industry.

dit.PNGPicture: Coal Mine

The mining industry is  a complex harsh beast. There are extremes of both hot and cold weather,  shift work, long 12-14hr days in environments where safety keeps you alive. Locations  are remote, some of the mines are hundreds or thousand of miles from the nearest town. Aside from the work environment, there are a great deal of  challenges and hoops one must jump through before even getting on to site.

For instance one cannot simply walk around with their Laptop and collect information easily, compared to an office environment ( love those surveys)

Each mine site has different access and safety requirement before you can enter  site and subsequent areas.

Things that are common:

  • Site and area specific Personal Protective equipment (PPE)
    • Depending on the PPE requirements can make it rather difficult to conduct a WSS .
      • At minimum it is always
        • Hard hat
        • Eye glasses
        • Ear protection
        • Gloves( sometimes you have 2-3 different pairs)
        • High visibility clothing , long sleeved and pants
        • Steel cap lace up boots (some sites have specific boots to wear that are issued in location)
        • at worst, I have had to wear a full face respiratory system in the hot Australian summer  (could not see shit).
  • Site and  area specific inductions
    • These can  be 1hr to a full  day depending on the area.
  • Safety inductions
    •  Sometimes require additional first aid training
    •  Electric safety awareness induction
    • Working at heights( (some roof heights are 20m+)
  • Work permits
    •  May be required to sign on or have to have  you own specific work permit generated. this again is time consuming as it requires approvals.

Once you have the basic out of the way,  you maybe able (I stress “maybe”  as you still need approval by the on shift superintendent or supervisor) to enter the area and most of the time depending on the work being performed you many need an area approved  escort.

In my experience floor plans provided are never correct.  Most of the time I have to draw them up or use evacuation plans located near fire exits .

  • Given the time constraints and environment an APoS is not able too be performed in most cases

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Picture: Heavy Vehicle workshop

  • Restricted areas:
    • production outage can cause large amounts of dollars per hour.   Miners will not stop working so you can walk around and collect some data points on a production equipment. All the time you stick to the designated walk way and collect what information you can.
  • Information gathering can be an issue as some locations have restriction on the types of equipment that is allowed into an area.  So a note pad and pen is all you have and given these environments are  extremely dirty, muddy and wet,  you need to ensure you look after (Zip lock bag) your gear. There is limited chance of  a second bite of the cherry if you forget to get the switch model number/details and communications cabinet number.

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Picture: Dusty areas

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Picture: standard comms cabinet out in the field (not one of mine)

  • Damage to equipment
    • As mentioned before these environments are dirty and can be depending  extremely hot or cold  depend on the time of year. Your equipment is your life line, and it will get dirty. So far I have been lucky(or unlucky) and so far only damaged the screen on my Surface Pro 4. Still was able to use it complete WSS. Everything I have is stored in Pelican cases.

 

Picture: Pelican cases of equipment

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Picture: Tripod

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Picture: Couple of Pelican case when they were brand new.

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Picture: Damaged SP4 but still could charge on, used an iPad screen protector to keep it together.

Once you have completed the survey and collected all your required information, next comes the joy of trying to design the wireless network based on the environment and  wireless criteria.

Which I will discuss in my next blog post

One thought on “Part 1: Issue of deploying Enterprise wireless in the Mining environment

  1. I have similar issues with large steel works and manufacturing sites over here, its an interesting topic. As much as I don’t like relying on it 100% I use airmagnet planner a lot for these environments. You can get samples of areas and then compare the planner predictions with those samples which at least lets you know you are on the right track!

    Like

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