Nov. 6 - A team of university graduates in Chile has developed a potentially life-saving jacket to be worn by miners deep underground. Inspired by the rescue of more than 30 Chilean miners in 2010, the jacket is equipped with technology that transmits a miner's vital signs in real time and sends out warnings when conditions become dangerous. Tara Cleary reports.
STORY: A distress signal that could save lives. It's part of the Mobile Monitoring Station - a high-tech jacket for miners working underground. Mining accidents in Chile claim more than 30 lives every year. But this jacket could change that, says civil engineer, Alexander Duarte. SOUNDBITE: ALEXANDER DUARTE, CIVIL INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER, SAYING (Spanish): "Chile has the highest fatality rate in the mining sector. This jacket will resolve this problem, giving miners real time information on both the environmental and physical conditions and transmit them in real time to mining (companies) so that they can prevent accidents before they happen." Sensors on the jacket monitor both the environment inside the mine and the wearer's own vital signs as he goes about his work. The information is sent via wi-fi to computers above ground, where Jorge Morales says, colleagues can keep watch. SOUNDBITE: JORGE MORALES, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER, SAYING (Spanish): "This development is important for the mining (industry) because it will sound an alarm, an alert when there is critical exposure of factors of significant occupational hazards such as silicosis, such as hearing loss, when there is a lot of exposure to dust and particles and a lot of exposure to noise." The team was inspired to develop the jacket by the remarkable rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners in 2010. In that two-month operation, a belt made by Zephyr technology was used, which remotely monitored the miners' heartbeats and breathing rates. But this "intelligent" jacket is designed to be part of a worker's equipment, monitoring his vital signs and conditions in the mine simultaneously. Its developers are now making plans to get the jacket to market and ultimately, to mine workers around the world.