Vital Alert Communication Inc announced today that the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has issued federal approval for the Canary® Through-the-Earth Communication (TTE) system for use in underground coal mines.

Vital Alert’s Canary, the most advanced Through-the-Earth Communication system for mining operations, is now cleared for installation in all US underground coal mines, where intrinsically safe (IS) products are required due to the presence of combustible gases. The approval also allows those mines that have already indicated a desire to purchase the technology the ability to deploy it mine-wide.

The Canary system requires no cable, fibre or line of sight between units. Units can be placed vertically (above and below ground) or laterally (below ground to below ground) to provide real-time voice, data and text communications. The system works as an independent, stand-alone wireless link or in concert with existing primary communications systems to provide a secondary communication path based on wireless TTE technology.

Mine-wide tracking and communications was initially stipulated by the MINER Act of 2006; in enabling the Act, MSHA’s policy became that these systems must be redundant. Typically, this is achieved with the same technology following two paths, and a major roof fall, fire or explosion can easily destroy both of these paths. By integrating Vital Alert’s through-the-earth communications, the secondary or tertiary path would now use different technology, significantly increasing the chance of post-event survivability and allowing communication with trapped workers.

Vital Alert CEO Michael Homer said: "This is a milestone for our company and a milestone for mine safety.

"It’s one thing to say you can communicate through-the-earth, it’s another thing to make it practical and usable for miners. We have achieved that. The MSHA approval is the final step in a long journey for our engineering team, and they should be applauded for their effort. We can now move forward with our partners and customers that have the vision of incorporating TTE into their daily use communication system to take mine safety to the next level."

Canary is the only MSHA-approved through-the-earth communication system capable of real-time, two-way voice, text and data transmission that is easily transported and easily deployed. It can be moved as the mine expands, and also built into rescue chambers and emergency shelters.