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Mining People Magazine

Mine disasters often leave dozens of

workers trapped in life-threatening

situations. In the dark and with low

supplies, there may not even be a way

to alert rescuers to miners’ locations.

One chance to survive those situations

may be self-escape, say Missouri

University of Science and Technology

researchers, who are investigating

underground mine emergencies. The

researchers are hoping to empower

miners to self-escape during fire and

explosion emergencies, mainly through





Dr. Samuel Frimpong, the Robert H.

Quenon Endowed Chair and professor in

mining engineering and interim chair of

computer science at Missouri S&T, leads

a collaborative and multi-disciplinary

effort among mining, explosives and

mechanical engineering, computer

science, and psychology faculty to

ensure the future safety of miners.

Through expanded communications

networks, the facilitation of miner

self-escape and improvements in

designing refuge alternatives, the team

is developing a holistic solution to

advance workplace safety and health in

underground operations.

“This initiative will evaluate the resilience

of the delay-tolerant network technology

for communication during self-escape,”

says Frimpong. “It will also evaluate

human factors that facilitate miner self-

escape, improve our understanding of

how fire and smoke evolve underground,

and critical egress mechanisms for

built-in-place refuge alternatives when

subjected to explosions.”

A delay-tolerant network or DTN is a

communications network designed

to operate over long distances such

as those encountered in space or in

this case, deep underground. The

researchers plan to use DTN and develop

a small-scale deployment of an integrated

underground mine fire emergency and

safety optimization system. These early

practical tests will validate the team’s

research solutions and lead to better

workplace health and safety.

“The proposed work emphasizes core

areas from the 2006 Mine Improvement

and New Emergency Response (MINER)

Act from the Mine Safety and Health

Administration,” says Frimpong. “The

research initiative will provide expanded

capacity to address these safety and

health challenges in underground mining


The results from the research will also

be used to develop new professional

courses for industry and the public.

New professional and academic training

courses created along with this work will

include courses that improve knowledge,

skills and abilities necessary for miner

self-escape using the study results –

skills like communications, navigation

and refuge alternative operations.

Frimpong and his team are collaborating

with Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and

Prairie State Generating Company to

use the research results as a basis

for developing new technologies. The

research is funded by the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention, and the

National Institute for Occupational Safety

and Health.


Work to

Minimize Future

Mine Disaster


Missouri S&T’s Mine Rescue

student team at a past competition.

The competition simulates a mine

emergency where teams race to

secure injured subjects. Photo by Sam

O’Keefe, Missouri S&T.