Methods To Improve Mine Ventilation System Efficiency - Introduction - Preprint 09-070

Pritchard, C.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2009
John Marks said in his acceptance of the Hartman Award in 2008 ? ?I guess that without the occasional complaint, your mine is probably over-ventilated? (Marks, 2008). Miners are seldom in this situation and often spend much of the time trying to find enough air to keep the operation running. With examination there are some things that can be done to make the best use of ventilation systems. Should there be surplus air, in which some of these options may result - financial and other benefits can be obtained. Some of the issues mine operators have needed to address recently are increased airflow requirements to dilute diesel particulates in metal and non-metal mines. Also, operations are faced with demands from reserves that are deeper, hotter and further away from fans and shafts, not to mention increased production demands. Mine ventilation air is a costly commodity, especially by the time it has been heated or cooled and moved to the bottom of the shaft and through the mine airways. Most of the options presented in this paper are useful for metal non-metal operations but some may be applicable to coal too. OPTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT Some of the areas to be addressed are shop ventilation methods, auxiliary equipment areas, dedicated intakes and returns, optimizing development, examination of mine airway utilization and alternative ventilation methods. UNDERGROUND SHOPS First, examine what is being done with the underground shop air. If it is being coursed directly to the returns there may be some potential to better utilize this, in most cases, relatively contaminant free air. Research the legal options for ventilating mine shops. MSHA regulations in 30CFR 57.4761 (1) allow the following options: To confine or prevent the spread of toxic gases from a fire originating in an underground shop where maintenance work is routinely done on mobile equipment, one of the following measures shall be taken: use of control doors or bulkheads, routing of the mine shop air directly to an exhaust system, reversal of mechanical ventilation, or use of an automatic fire suppression system in conjunction with an alternate escape route. The alternative used shall at all times provide at least the same degree of safety as control doors or bulkheads. Discussion This regulation gives some operators flexibility in ventilating underground shop facilities. If shop air is to be coursed through the work area, and then directly to the mine return, the question should be asked ? is the quality of air good enough to be reused in the mine, and if so, what are the risks? Can the risks be accommodated and managed to accomplish the change? If so, a considerable increase in mine level airflow could be attained by reusing shop air. Clearly, regulations are a minimum standard, and can be exceeded. Metal non-metal mine regulations are not as specific as coal due to the multitude of different mining methods and conditions utilized. Risks must be thoroughly examined and addressed to assure a safe environment. Issues Determine what contaminants are being produced in the work area ? welding fumes, diesel exhaust, paint fumes, chemicals and solvents, etc. Survey the area and determine exposures. MSHA requires exposure monitoring in 30 CFR 57.5002 (1) of dust, gasses mists and fumes to assure air quality is being met. Perform surveys and examine existing data to quantify personal and area concentrations of contaminants. Often there is adequate circulation such that exposure levels in shop work areas are low. After sending shop air back into the system any contaminants would be further lowered by dilution with other mine intake air downstream. Look at the shop work schedule. If only on day shift, the other two shifts and possibly weekends have no activity or source of contamination to affect the ventilation system. The worst case planning scenario would be a shop fire. Study and simulate how this would affect the mine and shop area. MSHA regulations require an escape route and a fire suppression system be installed and maintained as follows in 30 CFR 57.4671 (1): (d) Automatic fire suppression system and escape route. If used as an alternative, the automatic fire suppression system and alternate escape route shall meet the following requirements: (1) The suppression system shall be? (d)(1)(i) Located in the shop area; (d)(1)(ii) The appropriate size and type for the particular fire hazards involved; and (d)(1)(iii) Inspected at weekly intervals and properly maintained. (2) The escape route shall bypass the shop area so that the route will not be affected by a fire in the shop area. Case Study In an underground room and pillar mine, active mine workings were advancing further away from the mine shaft with deteriorated returns and leakage having a negative effect on ventilation airflows to the face. Mine level airflows were 236 m3/s (500,000 cfm) and shop airflows were 24 m3/s (50,000 cfm) (see Figure 1A). No additional capacity was available at the main surface fan. A solution was to utilize the shop air then send it to the mine areas instead of directly to the return. Considerable information on shop air quality and exposures from many years of operation was examined and no negative data was discovered. A risk analysis determined that moving forward with a shop air reuse program was desirable. A plan was developed, analyzed and decision to proceed approved by mine management. The change was simulated on the computer with the USBM/MTU MFire program before being implemented. This included utilizing fire scenarios to examine potential exposures to inby mining sections and plan escape routes. A monitoring system was designed and installed in cooperation with the US Bureau of Mines to monitor carbon monoxide
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