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Do radio waves work underground?

Radio communications in mining environments can be very spotty. Getting a signal isn’t like a wifi hotspot at your local cafe. There are plenty of factors that work towards interference in mining tunnels, such as walls of rock and metal equipment. So the big question remains: do radio waves work underground?

The answer is a resounding yes! With some creative engineering and planning, these signals can travel surprisingly far on their own — even through solid rock and other materials. For instance, one technology called “leaky feeder” radio is specifically designed for underground use. It involves a long length of coaxial cable which is laid throughout the mine, acting as an “antenna.” This leaky feeder then broadcasts its signal along the length of the tunnel. With this method, signals can travel up to a kilometer in distance in some circumstances.

In addition, a series of repeaters and antenna can be placed at intervals along the tunnel, amplifying the signal and allowing it to travel even further. This is especially useful in larger mines that need coverage over multiple levels or kilometers of rock.

The leaky feeder lines come with all the tools that a mine needs such as sensors for tracking personnel and material, gas alarms and interfaces for expanding the communication network as the mine expands. These cables are built to be very resilient and to function in the most dangerous environments on earth.

So while radio waves don’t traditionally work underground, with the right setup they can still be used to send critical data and communications in a mining environment. With these creative solutions, miners can use the same devices and technologies they would on the surface, even in a potentially dangerous environment. This not only helps to keep them safe, but also improves efficiency and productivity.

This post was written by Justin Tidd, Director at Becker Mining Communications! For over 15 years, Becker Communications has been the industry’s leader in mining radio communication systems and electrical mining communication systems. As they expanded into surface mining, railroads, and tunneling they added wireless communication systems, handheld radios, tagging and tracking systems, as well as gas monitoring.

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