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Australian ‘hi-tech canary’ to save the lives of miners

AUSTRALIAN scientists have developed new technology that could save lives lost in mining accidents around Western Australia and throughout the world.

Developed by the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation, the “hi-tech canary” is also expected to generate significant economic benefits to mining producers.

Using a technique called microseismic analysis it measures fine measurements of seismic waves generated in rock under stress from mining.

It has already been trialed in 15 underground coalmines in Queensland, New South Wales and China.

CSIRO research group leader Mark Berry said alarm bells rang at the first sign of danger.

“The technology which operates remotely will make mining safer and improve the way mines are designed in the future,” Mr Berry said.

“By enabling miners to deal quickly with hazards, the technology will save mining companies millions of dollars in lost production costs, with mines losing up to $1 million a day whenever work stops.

“This amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars every year in Australia alone.”

Besides movements in the rock, the technology can also enable miners to predict gaseous emissions.

Between 1990 and 2000, 229 people died in the Australian mining industry including seven in 2001-02. Across the globe approximately 10,000 die each year in mining accidents.

CSIRO is under increasing pressure to commercialise its research and release it into Australian and world markets.

In this year’s Federal budget the Government committed an additional $20 million toward the recently launched CSIRO Flagship Programs.

The program is a key component in CSIRO’s strategy of improving its relevance by bringing science and industry together.

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