Just last month, 41 people died in Northern Turkey following a fatal explosion in a coal mine. Another 11 were injured in the incident, BBC reported. Coal mine operations are complex and dangerous, often requiring multiple people to be deep underground at any one time. In China alone, more than a hundred coal miners have died from accidents in the first seven months of 2022, according to Bloomberg.

In the hopes of improving safety and efficiency in mine operations, Huawei announced yesterday the launch of its 5G+AI mining solutions for large-scale commercial use. This new technology can help enable remote operations through 5G-powered and AI-enabled videos. The videos are able to provide a real-time, accurate visualisation of what is happening in mines, allowing workers to carry out operations like tunnelling and transportation from the safety of their offices.

The ultra-high bandwidth of 5G networks support the transmission of hundreds of high-definition videos in real time. This, combined with the low latency of 5G networks, allow workers to remotely and precisely control mining machines offsite. Huawei’s video technology also features a dust-filtering algorithm which ensures crisp images within a radius of 20 metres, even when the environment is shrouded in dust and mist.

Safety underground

In traditional mines, underground safety relies on manual effort, such as team leaders supervising team members. But leaving safety to the hands of humans leave them vulnerable to inevitable instances of human error. AI-enabled videos can help to address this, allowing miners to track underground operations and issuing real-time alerts if safety violations or quality issues are detected.

Huawei is also introducing a new platform called MineHarmony, a platform that helps to simplify operations and remote inspections through a centralised platform. Traditionally, mines run on hundreds, if not thousands, of devices that store data in siloed information systems. This hinders collaboration and makes the development of functions like remote operations more challenging, according to Huawei’s website.

Huawei’s MineHarmony platform allows for data sharing across mining devices, no matter the device type or manufacturer. This provides miners with an end-to-end overview of all devices working in the mine, allowing for data sharing as well as remote operations of these devices.

The platform even allows for human-machine interconnections, enabling personnel monitoring from aboveground to ensure safety protocols are in place and improve the efficiency of task allocation.

For instance, it can detect safety hazards like gas overflows and automatically trigger an evacuation notice, shut down mining equipment, and ventilate the site in a timely manner – all without human intervention. This is crucial to improving emergency response efficiency.

AI and 5G can also help to improve efficiency in mine operations. Belt conveyors are the main transport mode of coal mines, but they are inefficient. A typical conveyor system is 20 km long, and requires almost 20 inspection staff to operate. This can be made more efficient through 5G-enabled real-time videos of the main transportation belt, as less staff is required to monitor these operations physically.

But 5G- and AI-enabled videos can automate this process. Huawei’s AI can help to accurately identify anomalies, turning time-phased manual inspections into 24/7 intelligent monitoring and cutting the number of underground inspection personnel needed by 20 per cent.

At Huawei’s 19th Global Analyst Summit held in April this year, Rotating Chairman Ken Hu shared that Huawei has already helped more than 200 coal mines install over 3,000 pieces of 5G equipment.