Jannatec teams up with deep mining network
Sudbury company develops space age suits and helmets for ultra deep mines
It may sound like something straight from science fiction, but for miners of the future, suits and helmets that monitor their vital signs, regulate their body temperature and communicate with colleagues on surface aren’t so far from reality.
Sudbury-based Jannatec Technologies is working to develop fully connected, wearable gear that would do all these things to help miners go deeper underground.
“We’re very good at mining, but our communications and how we move ore and how we move things is still back 30, 40 years, so we have to catch up, and we need higher speed data under there,” said Jannatec president Wayne Ablitt. “We have to provide the same working tools underground that are above ground, and that’s our goal.”
Jannatec is one of the partners in the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation’s (CEMI) Ultra-Deep Mining Network, which is focused on four areas of innovation: rock-stress risk reduction, energy reduction, material transport and productivity, and human health. The network defines ultra-deep mining as mining below 2.5 kilometres underground.
Last January, CEMI received $15 million from the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence. An additional $31 million is coming from cash and in-kind contributions.
The further underground miners go, the hotter it gets and the more urgent is the need to cool the body. Currently, noted Pat Dubreuil, the network’s research and development program director, some miners in South Africa working 13,000 feet below surface travel four hours just to get to their worksite. They work in 20-minute intervals, broken up by 20-minute rest periods to prevent stress on the body.
Jannatec’s wearable communications system could incorporate tracking, collision avoidance, communications, cooling and more.
“By bringing in technologies such as the one that Jannatec’s working on, we’re hoping to improve the output and the productivity of workers,” Dubreuil said. Only five mines in Canada currently qualify as deep mines, but as ore resources are depleted, going deeper is becoming a necessity, and Canadian companies need to be ready, Dubreuil said.
“It’s important to develop (these technologies) with our mining supply companies so they too acquire expertise and are able to export their knowledge to the world,” he said.
Bora Ugurgel, the network’s managing director, said what makes the network unique is that its focus goes beyond innovation.
If research and development never evolves into a tangible commodity that goes to market, it’s not really successful, he said.
Jannatec is already realizing the benefit from membership in the network. The company is set to hire three more engineers and a technician to fast-track the project and get it to market more quickly. As the network evolves, there will be opportunities for members to share knowledge and experience with each other.
However, companies that develop the technology retain their intellectual property. “This is helping us because one of the things we’ve always lacked in our business is the proper resources to build product and get it out to the market faster,” Ablitt said. The Ultra-Deep Mining Network currently has about 50 potential members lined up, including academic institutions, mining companies, and small and medium-sized enterprises. CEMI is in the process of conducting a pan-Canadian search for additional companies interested in participation.