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Evaluation of Smart Underground Mine Evacuation Efficiency through Virtual Reality
AuthorGaab, Simone J.
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As mineral deposits gradually show lower grades and higher depths, the number of underground mining operations will have to grow in the future in order to sustain the populations thriving need for mineral resources. Underground mine operations are inherently dangerous. Hazards such as fires, explosions and caving of the rock are rare, but once they occur a speedy and safe egress of the mine workers is critical to their survival. Underground mine drift systems can extend to several hundred miles, with some employees working in the most remote developments. Static evacuation routes marked by exit signs or directional lines along the drift wall, can be obstructed by obstacles such as rockfall or made hardly noticeable in low-visibility conditions caused by smoke or dust. A vast amount of research has investigated and developed real-time evacuation guidance systems for occupational buildings. Those smart systems take changing environmental conditions into account and adjust the evacuation guidance systems to indicate the shortest path to the egress while avoiding danger zones. The goal of this study was to determine if such a smart evacuation guidance system is more efficient than conventional approaches that use exit signs and if this thesis proves true to further quantify the efficiency. The test environment of this study was chosen to be a Virtual Reality (VR) underground mine. Research suggests that VR simulations are a cost-efficient, resource-saving and safe alternative to real-life simulations while still providing valuable indications.In total thirteen (13) volunteers participated in the study. They were asked to evacuate the VR underground mine, two times using the conventional and two times being guided by the smart evacuation system. The statistical analysis of the total evacuation time proved that there was a significant difference between the efficiency of conventional and smart evacuation guidance systems. The highest achieved reduction in total evacuation time using the smart method amounted to nearly 40%. 83.33% of the participants preferred the smart evacuation guidance system over the conventional guidance system. Moreover, 100% agreed that smart evacuation could enhance mine safety.