Join an on-line chatÂ at 1:00 pm today (8/16) on technology to locate trapped miners.
On day 11,Â the rescue efforts continue for the six trapped miners at a Utah coal mine.Â A third borehole (2″) puncturedÂ the mine workings yesterday afternoon to allow a camera to be lowered into the mine to scan for any signÂ of the miners.Â With each borehole drilled and each camera-search,Â the questions being repeatedÂ across the nation are “where are the miners?” and “why don’t we knowÂ more precisely where they are in the mine?”Â
After the Sago disaster, family members,Â worker advocates and coal miners themselves agreed unanimously that minersÂ should be equipped with some sort of device so that theirÂ locationÂ underground is known at all times.Â That way, if an explosion, roof fall or other emergencyÂ occurs whichÂ impedes minersÂ from evacuating from underground,Â the rescue teams will haveÂ key data on where to findÂ them.
In the days and weeks followingÂ Sago,Â weÂ heard from dozens of small manufacturers,Â professional designers, and back-yard tinkerers with all kinds of ideas to improve communication and tracking of underground miners.*Â We invited all of them toÂ present their ideas and display their technology at a symposium held in April 2006Â in Wheeling, WV.Â Â It was really inspiringÂ to see all these interesting inventors andÂ entrepreneurs gathered at small booths, so very eager to talk about the potential of their products and ideas toÂ assist trapped miners. Â What I recallÂ mostÂ about the entire event was that nearly every one of these exhibitors talked about watching the SagoÂ rescue efforts play out on nationalÂ TV, andÂ becoming anxious, frustrated or invigorated knowing that they had anÂ existing technologyÂ that might beÂ applied in the mining environment.Â For much of theÂ exhibit period,Â Amber Helms (whose father TerryÂ Helms diedÂ in Sago) engaged in dynamic discussions about the possibilities of the technologies on display.Â Â Many of the exhibitors just wanted aÂ shot, an opportunity, that is, to try out their inventions in aÂ real underground mine.Â Many asked, “can you getÂ me into a mine so we can try outÂ our device?”Â Â Â Â Â Â
Sadly, theÂ need for tracking equipment seems toÂ have fallen to the back burner, perhaps because the MINER Act 2006Â doesn’t require such equipment until at least June 2009.Â But now, with theÂ uncertain fate ofÂ the six trapped miners in Utah, theÂ urgency of tracking devicesÂ has emerged again.
Yesterday, a couple of dozen individuals participated in an on-line chat about the current status of tracking devices.Â The chatroom,Â hosted by Wheeling Jesuit University’s National TechnologyÂ Transfer Center, will resume again today fromÂ 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm.Â Some of these inventors and entrepreneursÂ we first met in Wheeling last year participated in that chat yesterday, including representatives from InSeT Systems, Matric Systems, emenu, Inc., Active Control, Workhorse Technologies, and Mine Site Technologies.Â Thanks to them for not giving up on their technologies for the good of mineÂ workers.Â Â I for one was feeling the need to try to contribute in some way to improve our capabilities to rescue trapped miners. ItÂ felt good to have an avenue toÂ reconnect with some of these creative individuals and pick their brains about how their equipment may (or may not) have performed in the Utah disaster, based on what we currently know about the rockburst.
All are welcome to join in today’s on-line chat.
*Celeste Monforton, MPH was part of Davitt McAteer’s teamÂ that investigated the Sago and Aracoma Alma coal mine disasters, on behalf of West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin.Â As part of our work, we received boxes of letters from individuals who had ideas for all sorts of mine rescue and safety equipment.