Telstra Mining Services is building an underground private 4G LTE network for South32’s Cannington mine in north-west Queensland.

Announced during Telstra Vantage in Melbourne today, the network is still in the pre-deployment stage and will initially be 6.5 kilometres with the potential to be extended in subsequent stages. 

According to Telstra, at full installation, it would be one of the largest underground mining LTE networks in the world using leaky feeder.

Jeannette McGill, Head of Telstra Mining Services said, “Telstra will deploy the underground network using a private, virtualised core and LTE radio technologies distributed over leaky feeder cable using LTE-capable bi-directional amplifiers. Our analysis indicates this to be the most effective solution for underground miners, and is upgradeable to 5G. 

Jeannette McGill, Head of Telstra Mining Services

“Being private means that it will be a completely standalone mobile network, independent from others such as Telstra’s public network. South32 Cannington will have its own equipment, SIM cards and unique network codes. 

“Telstra’s installation will enable access to the latest advances in 4G LTE and NB-IoT. Our goal is to establish an effective network that will assist South32 Cannington in driving safety, productivity and efficiency initiatives.”

A comprehensive evaluation and integration program has been developed as part of the deployment.

This program accounts for the unique geology and composition of the South32 Cannington mine using LTE technology in a production-scale setting.

Michael Ebeid, group executive at Telstra Enterprise said the partnership represents a significant industry milestone. 

“The push towards increasing mechanisation and automation of mining operations in Australia has driven greater demand for improved connectivity through all areas of mines and their processing facilities.

“These technologies – whether connecting staff, vehicles or sensors – require connections that are high throughput and low latency, and can ensure that critical control and monitoring systems can operate without interruption. 

“The network will deliver real-time operational data for operating transparency, condition monitoring and production improvements.”

Providing a modern connectivity platform will allow for more flexible operations as well as scalability and choice in applying various digital solutions. 

The combination of Ericsson mobile network equipment, Telstra radio spectrum, and leaky feeder solutions from specialist manufacturer METStech provides a unique capability that has made extending LTE underground a more commercially realistic and safer prospect.

South32’s Cannington mine is an underground silver, lead and zinc operation located 87 km south of McKinlay in North West Queensland. 

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