Since June 19, occupational safety and efficiency at the largest oil shale mine in the world has been boosted by the availability of 3G mobile connectivity. Located in Ida-Viru County, Estonia, the simply named “Estonia Mine” covers approximately the same area as the country’s capital city and is operated by Eesti Energia subsidiary Enefit Kaevandused.
To complete the project, Eesti Energia subsidiary Enefit Solutions installed 45 kilometers of fiber optics cable, Ericsson installed an antenna network engineered by Boftel, and Telia installed the Ericsson radio base stations. The network was designed in such a way that mobile connectivity will not be interrupted as the face of the mine advances since the equipment can be relocated relatively easily.
Eesti Energia CEO Hando Sutter believes the newfound mobile connectivity will have an impact on both the Estonia Mine and his company’s bottom line.
“Development of technologies and implementing digital and telecommunication solutions in production processes helps the mine to increase efficiency, which in turn improves competitiveness of Eesti Energia, because cost of electricity and oil depends on the cost of oil shale,” Sutter says. “Third generation mobile connectivity with fast data speeds is available everywhere in the mine where mining activity is occurring. Mobile coverage is available in almost 40 kilometers of the mine tunnels.”
Ahti Puur, CEO at Enefit Kaevandused, says the benefits can be summed up in terms of time saved.
“Before having access to mobile network, sending out information on the current state of mining, occupational safety, and condition of devices took a lot of time, and it was not possible to react quickly,” Puur says. “Today, we can act immediately when the need arises. Thus, work processes become more efficient, and occupational safety improves.”
Seth Lackman, Head of Ericsson Eesti, says the Estonia Mine project showcased how well mobile networks work in underground environments.
“We see this as a great real-world example of the potential that mobile technologies have to connect even the most challenging environments,” Lackman says. “As we approach the 5G era we will continue to explore new ways of using mobile connectivity to improve both safety and productivity by, for example, controlling machinery remotely.”
Kirke Saar, CTO at Telia Estonia, says that mobile connectivity in a mine is a unique solution in Estonia.
“We started testing in 2015 and achieved excellent results, which today enables us to build a system for the whole mining area,” Saar says. “In addition to voice and data services, the system includes positioning of employees and machinery, which is important in terms of occupational safety.”
About Estonia Mine
With permits to extract an area of 141 square kilometers, Estonia Mine is the world’s largest oil shale mine and approximately the same size as the city of Tallinn. In 2016, Estonia Mine produced 12.6 million tons of oil shale – 65% of Enefit Kaevandused’s total oil shale production for that year. Estonia Mine employs 1,300 people.