Wielding a large rotating steel drum equipped with sharp tungsten carbide teeth, a continuous mining machine scrapes coal from the mine’s seams and drops it onto conveyor belts or into shuttle cars for transport to the surface. As it moves from one tight space to another underground, the massive machine leaves little room – and margin for error – for miners in its path. This high-powered scraper is one of the most efficient methods for extracting coal, yet not without its risks.
Thirty-five coal miners have died since 1984 when they became pinned, crushed or struck by continuous mining machines. To combat these kinds of accidents, a number of mining companies have adopted the use of proximity detection, a technology that uses electronic sensors to detect motion or the location of one object relative to another. These systems can be programmed to send warning signals and stop machines before they injure or kill miners working in the confined space of an underground coal mine.