Through-the-earth (TTE) communication systems are useful for post-disaster emergency communications due to their likelihood of surviving a mine disaster. The wireless channel and electromagnetic environment (EME) are two primary factors that affect the performance of a TTE system and have not been well understood in a mining environment. This paper reports our recent measurements conducted in an active coal mine to characterize the wireless channel and EME of a TTE system. TTE transmissions were successfully demonstrated in a mine location with a depth of 567 m (1,860 ft) by using ground rods installed on the surface and existing roof bolts in the underground. The results show that the EME in the mine is dominated by the 60-Hz signal and its harmonics for both surface and underground environments. The signal attenuation caused by the channel increases for frequencies greater than 90 Hz, which appears to be an optimum frequency point showing the smallest attenuation. An analytical path loss model for TTE channels is developed and validated using measurement results. This paper provides a measured data set as well as a model that an electric-field TTE system operator or system designer can reference when implementing TTE technologies in a mining environment.
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