My role was to establish communications from a very remote mining location, far off the grid and without any telephone or cell service, and to make sure those comms stayed up and running 24/7 while we were in the area. The challenge was daunting. The only power available at the mine was solar, or by generator. The distance between the mine and Lincoln is about 20 miles, but the terrain is difficult to say the least. The mine sits in a big bowl with mountains in 3 directions around it, and only one narrow V pathway out, which was in the general direction of Lincoln but not a straight shot for signal.
I picked the Three Bears Motel in the west end of Lincoln because I saw there could be a signal pathway right down the highway through Lincoln which pointed in the general direction of the mine. I rented the room closest to the highway, and went to the mine that night to set up a portable base station for the security crew already on station just 150 feet from the entrance to the mine’s main shaft.
We put up a base antenna that operated on both VHF and UHF bands, and I used a Yeti 1250 solar power supply from Goal Zero, with solar panels and generator backup to run an Anytone dual band mobile radio at 50 watts. With that setup we were able to talk directly to my van or a radio just like it in the motel room, and I was able to set up an office in the motel room with access to Wifi and cell signal. This allowed us to maintain a high security profile right through the fires in the area and for over a month.
We had lots of help from two local hams, K7LMT, who acted as the local anchor if I had to run down to Helena (about an hour away) for parts or supplies and K7WES who donated a 5 element 2 meter beam. The beam antenna allowed me to set up cross band repeaters at both ends. So with handheld radios operating on UHF (70cm ham band) and two 50 watt cross band repeaters talking to each other on 2 meters (VHF) we were then able to work the mine with a 5 watt handheld all around Lincoln, and the security crew was able to work Lincoln with handheld radios anywhere on the mine property. This gave us much more flexibility, and allowed us a little freedom of movement we didn’t have before. Any upcoming operation will be handled like this. It was very effective.
My thanks goes especially to Scott KE7NSX, and Corey KG7SBQ, along with KE7YLE and K7LMT for the help making this a successful communications operation. My thanks also goes to dozens of people who came and did the actual security for the mine, and the support and command structure the Oathkeepers provided for the entire operation in keeping us all safe for the whole operation.
What did we accomplish?
This is now the third operation that I was fortunate to be a part of with Oathkeepers.