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MSHA News Release: [02/01/2006]
Contact: Dirk Fillpot
Phone Number: (202) 693-9406
Release Number: 06-218-NAT

MSHA Aggressively Assessing, Testing Communication and Locating Devices for Underground Mines

ARLINGTON, Va -The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced that it is evaluating and testing a personal emergency device (PED) and a locator system for underground mines. CONSOL Energy and Peabody Coal Company have agreed to work with MSHA to test the systems.

"MSHA is moving quickly and aggressively to evaluate technology that may help save the lives of miners in this nation," said David G. Dye, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We will test these systems'as well as other promising technologies that arise"to provide miners and mine operators with useful data on the effectiveness of devices such as these in making mines safer workplaces."

The PED was developed in Australia by Mine Site Technologies. The system uses either a surface- or an underground-powered loop which radiates a radio frequency signal enabling one-way communication to underground. The system dims and flashes a miner's cap lamp for about 10 seconds, then sends a text message to the wearer. Individual, group or broadcast messages can be sent. MSHA is currently surveying underground mines around the U.S. that use the PED to determine its effectiveness and discuss operational issues that have arisen in different mine environments. Of particular concern are the issues created by the underground antenna loop and the need to withdraw power in the event of a fire or explosion.

A locator system (Tracker IV) from the same company is also being evaluated. This system enables identification of a miner's location in an underground mine. The miner wears a transmitter which sends out a unique pulsed signal to receiver beacons strategically spaced underground. MSHA will be looking at possible concerns, including the potential for damage to the receivers by fire, explosion or roof falls which could compromise the ability to track and/or send messages on the data line.

MSHA technical experts will also travel on a fact-finding mission to Australia before the end of February to research and evaluate the effectiveness of both the PED and Tracker systems at underground mines in that country, as well as to discuss how these mines have incorporated the systems into their emergency plans.

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