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Saved by the gong

saving miners.jpg
Make yourself heard

By James Dacey

If I were trapped down a mineshaft on the point of imminent collapse, I’m not sure my first instinct would be to thwack the wall with a giant sledgehammer. However, the act of doing this might just save my life…

Scientists at the University of Utah have devised a clever new system in which trapped miners can inform rescuers of their whereabouts through pounding an iron plate on the wall of the mine. Seismic echoes generated by this impact will travel through the mine before being detected by geophones at the surface.

“This is not rocket science; its rock science,” said Gerard Schuster, one of the author’s of a study describing this technique, published in this month’s issue of The Leading Edge, a journal of the society of Exploration Geophysics.

The researchers, from the University of Utah, trialled their system at two different locations. One test was in a utility tunnel beneath the University campus, and the other was in the deeper tunnels of an abandoned copper mine in Arizona.

Both volunteers were safely retrieved, as the researchers report “100 percent accuracy”.

The next step is to test the method in deeper mines, such as coal mines, which can be a few thousand feet deep.

Schuster and his collaborators have a vision that all mines of the future should have their walls lined with sledgehammers and iron plates at regular intervals. Then, should a miner find them self in trouble, they can summon help via the iron gong.

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