Underground mining takes place in an environment not naturally suited to the presence of humans. Poor air quality is one of the key reasons why underground environments can be dangerous for mine personnel. Toxic gasses like carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), other flammable and combustible gasses, and coal dust are often naturally present. Further contaminants are added as a result of the emissions from vehicles and earthmoving equipment used underground. In deep-level mines, heat is also a significant problem.
Due to these factors, it is essential for mines to be properly ventilated to make them safe for human entry. Typically, this is done by a network of electrically-powered fans, extractors and ducting. However, rising electricity charges have led to the cost of cooling and ventilation becoming a major expense for many mines.
A study undertaken by Tanveer Jahir and Mohamed Mohamed from Conspec Controls Limited found that:
“Ventilation can account for 35-50% of an underground mine’s energy consumption, translating into as much as $20-30 million per year.”
In order to control escalating running costs, mine operators need to find ways to reduce electricity usage. Many current ventilation systems are very wasteful as they constantly ventilate the entire mine, including areas that are not being worked.
The best solution to this problem is the implementation of a Ventilation on Demand (VOD) system. These systems use a combination of advanced software and electronically controlled hardware coupled with an Atmospheric Monitoring System (AMS) to continually monitor air quality and adjust ventilation as required.
In this way, areas that are being worked in benefit from better, more efficient ventilation, while areas not being worked in are not ventilated. Overall, this leads to significant electricity and other cost savings, and also makes the mine much safer and more productive.
Conspec Controls is a leading global supplier of gas monitoring and other mining control systems. At RAMJACK Technology Solutions, we are proud to be Conspec’s distibution partner in Africa. Contact us at RAMJACK to find out how these systems can make your mine a safer, more efficient place to work.