Major communications upgrade for Pilbara

Monday, 14 May, 2012

Perth communications company Minetec has commenced construction of hardware associated with a data communications network for a major rail upgrade in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The $12.5 million first stage of the project involves the construction, commissioning and testing of more than 100 radio telemetry poles along about 250 km of railway linking iron ore mines in the Pilbara with Port Hedland.

Minetec’s general manager, Steve Hannah, said work to build and position the telemetry towers was already underway.

“We have an eight-person crew constructing and concreting towers into place and are looking to add a second crew in coming weeks to speed up work,” he said.

“We recently purchased our first excavator to help with the work and will be adding additional equipment as required.”

Hannah said it was expected stage one of the project would be completed by the first quarter of 2013.

Stage two involves construction of 13 radio base stations and the installation of microwave communication technology. The system will enable data to be transferred along the entire length of the railway including the ports.

This was important to enable computers coordinating the locomotives attached to the ore trains to ‘talk’ to each other as well as to provide constant updates of conditions on the rail line itself.

“The system is far more than just enabling train drivers to be in contact with their depots,” he said.

“Coordinating the actions of locomotives is critical in ensuring the trains operate in the most effective manner.

“It is also important that track conditions and ore cars are constantly monitored because of the stresses involved in transporting iron ore.”

Hannah said the contract was an extension of the communications technology and software that the company had developed to assist with communications on mine sites.

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