5G helps unearth more efficiency in coal mines
Coal mining companies in Shanxi province are turning smart, safer and more efficient by using the latest 5G technologies.
Xinyuan Coal Mine, a subsidiary of Yangquan Coal Industry Group, became the nation's first 5G-connected coal mine with a 5G mining control center put into operation in late April.
"After deploying the 5G network in the 537-meter-deep shaft and launching smart drilling, mining and checking operations, we have made fully automatic in-shaft production a reality," said Zhai Hong, board chairman of Yangquan Coal Industry Group.
At the control center, a huge display shows the gas level, temperature, humidity and other conditions in the shaft. The operators can control the processes of drilling, excavating and conveying with simple clicks of a mouse. The very few workers in the shaft are connected with the control center via video link.
Zhai said the number of staff working in the shaft has been reduced by 321 in the past few years thanks to the use of various smart technologies.
"Our next step is to make in-shaft mining totally free from manpower," Zhai said, adding that a no-man shaft can greatly alleviate a coal mine's safety concerns and prevent casualties.
The chairman said that before the use of the 5G network, the company's many intelligent equipment could only be used for monitoring, instead of controlling production.
Xinyuan's 5G system was built by the Shanxi branch of China Mobile and Huawei.
Another company that has followed suit is Pangpangta Coal Mine under Huozhou Coal and Electricity Group.
Pangpangta's 5G mining control center became operational after the 5G network was installed in the shafts covering a total length of 100 kilometers and depth up to 800 m underground.
The company's network was developed by the Shanxi branch of China Unicom.
Network construction began in late March and was completed in about 50 days.
"In 50 days, we had built 144 underground base stations and installed cables and all kinds of monitoring and control devices in the shafts," said Li Yi, general manager of the Shanxi branch of China Unicom.
Executives said that totally man-free in-shaft operation is expected to be realized at Pangpangta Coal Mine sometime next year.
The 5G-connected mining will be quickly promoted in Shanxi's coal industry, said Hu Yuting, vice-governor of the province.
He predicted that there will be 10 coal mines going fully smart in the next three years and intelligent production will be realized throughout the industry by 2030.
Guo Yanjie contributed to this story.
A huge display at the control center of Xinyuan Coal Mine shows the operational status in the shaft. YE HAIFENG/FOR CHINA DAILY
Workers test a 5G monitoring device in Xinyuan's shaft. YE HAIFENG/FOR CHINA DAILY