Satellite internet helps mines improve efficiency, safety

Mine operators finding Viasat service a good fit in many locations


In 2012, Gabriel Yates was laid off from his job as an equipment operator at a Virginia coal mining company. Seven years later, in his new role as a Viasat retailer, Yates went back and sold that same company Viasat Business Internet at 14 of their locations. In doing so, he feels that he’s tapped into new demand from the mining industry to get broadband internet.

“If this one mine site got it and loved it, there are many others that could benefit too,” Yates said.

Yates and Area Sales Manager Don Nicholson are working together on ways to target other mining operations through Yates’s company, Rural Satellite Services.

A representative of a top U.S. mining company first approached Yates about doing business, saying they needed better internet connectivity. The mining company and its affiliates operate both underground and surface coal mining complexes across Northern and Central Appalachia.

“Once we got started with them, we were able to do several of their sites,” Yates said.

About half of the Viasat installations are at pump stations, sites designed to remove water and keep mines dry. Having internet connectivity at a pump station allows employees to monitor them remotely, saving time and money.

“Instead of paying somebody to go check that site several times a day, they can get an alert or notification about how it’s doing,” Yates said.

Other installations are at surface or deep mine locations, many of them office trailers on work sites.

Connectivity offers another significant time saver by allowing federally mandated dust sample data to be submitted online. This data is taken from devices miners wear while they work, ensuring workers’ exposure to health hazards is limited.

“With the internet on site, they can easily download the data and enter it into the state’s website,” Yates said.

Several of the sites already had service with another satellite internet provider, but switched to Viasat for better connectivity.

“They seem to be very pleased with our service,” Yates said.

For Yates, connecting mines wasn’t just good for his business. It’s been a way for him to help the area’s economy and give back to an industry that has employed much of his family.

“This community was really built on the mining industry,” he said. “It took a downfall back in 2012, when I got laid off. Now it’s starting to get built back up, and there’s a big need for these places to have technology.”

Viasat Business Internet is available as both a primary service and a diverse backup connection to provide coverage if a cable or fiber connection is disrupted. Business coverage is available nationwide, with speeds up to 35 Mbps available across most of the U.S. Plans start at $50 a month.