Optimization of through-the-Earth radio communications via mine overburden conductivity estimation
Through-the-Earth (TTE) radio has been proposed as a means of emergency communications in mines. The propagation of a TTE radio signal depends chiefly on the subsurface conductivity distribution. Robust forward models of signal propagation can be computed based on a realistic conductivity estimate. These models can be used, for example, to optimize frequency, estimate signal range, identify zones of anomalously strong or weak signals, or to optimize the position of the above-ground TTE radio unit. A method was developed to determine the conductivity distribution of a mine overburden using TTE radio transmission data. At multiple locations in an underground test mine, we recorded a wideband electromagnetic signal, spanning a frequency range of approximately 500 to 8,500 Hz, transmitted from a vertical magnetic dipole at the surface. Using a finite-difference time-domain forward modeling code, a layered Earth conductivity model that accounts for topography was fitted to the observed data, which minimizes the difference between the calculated and observed attenuations for each transmitter-receiver pair, for each frequency of interest.