network of sensors

Swedish invention to save miners from cave-ins

A wireless network of sensors will monitor vibrations underground and hopefully help save some of the 12,000 lives lost annually when mines cave in across the world. That's the hope of Swedish researchers at Luleå Technical University.

"If you predict movements in the bedrock earlier you can warn the staff," says industrial electronics professor Jerke Delsing to Swedish Radio.

As miners go deeper into the mines, the network of tunnels and shafts becomes more complicated. To keep the mine secure, the roof and walls are usually reinforced. The new sensors, which are no bigger than a mobile phone SIM card, will be placed on the reinforced bolts. That way they can detect if the bolts are moving.

Most mining accidents take place in coal mines, many of them in China, reports Swedish Radio.

In Sweden, miners were injured in January when parts of LKAB's mine in the northern town of Kiruna caved in. The sensors will be put to the test in that mine at the beginning of next year, and also in a gold mine in Kittilä in neighbouring Finland.