Graduate Builds Computer Program To Improve Safety In Underground Mines


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RAPID CITY, SD – Ankit Jha, Ph.D., is the first graduate of South Dakota Mines’ new PhD program in mining engineering.

Jha’s research, conducted under the direction of Associate Professor Purushotham Tukkaraja, Ph.D., included a new computer system that integrates and improves ventilation, safety, communication and rescue operations in underground mines. The concept is to develop a command center with software that allows real-time tracking of individuals on digital maps inside a mine. It also records real-time sensor data from the atmospheric monitoring system within the mine. Data collected using specific algorithms from mining ventilation engineering and IT were used to develop the software.

When the system alerts operators of danger, it highlights the fastest and safest route for a mine rescue and recovery operation. Jha’s research also looked at the flammability of ventilation ducts in underground mines and made recommendations for improvement. Additionally, Jha investigated efficient ventilation designs to mitigate radon emissions in underground metal mines using numerical fluid dynamics experiments and simulations.

In her thesis, Jha writes: “As mine rescue operations are stressful because human lives are at stake, it is not surprising that relevant information could be missed, which could adversely affect the rescue operation. Decision-making in a rescue operation is tedious and requires taking into account different variables involved. “

This work has the potential to save lives and improve the results of future mining operations. “An integrated system that combines mine ventilation, air quality monitoring, miner location data and enhanced rescue operations would be of great benefit to the industry,” Tukkaraja said. Over the course of the project, Jha built the backbone of the software, but says it needs to be further refined to prepare it for the market.

“We’re definitely looking at commercialization,” says Tukkaraja. The next steps are to work with the mine rescue team at the Sanford Underground Search Facility in Lead, SD, to continue to test and develop this system in real world scenarios.

Jha’s research was funded in part by a $ 1.25 million grant in 2014 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “I am very grateful for this doctorate. gave me the opportunity to undertake a wide range of studies, from computer science to mining engineering. This job allowed me to get an internship during my studies and a possible job in the industry. South Dakota Mines brought me to where I am today, ”says Jha.

Jha graduated last spring. The new Ph.D. program in mining engineering began in the fall of 2017 and is a combined effort of the university’s department of geology and geological engineering and the department of mining engineering and management.

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Gordon K. Morehouse