20 Sep 2018

Maintain safe working conditions underground with scalable cooling systems

Cobar Case Study
 

With temperatures above ground often exceeding 40°C in the warmer months, the health, safety and productivity of underground miners can all be jeopardized by hot climates. Regulating temperatures underground, and extracting moisture and contaminants from the air, are essential processes that allow miners to work safely and improve productivity significantly.

Heat exhaustion in underground mines becomes more common as the temperature rises, with dehydration and heat cramps not unusual. In deep mining, where ventilation and temperature control systems are an essential part of the permanent production structure, even fractional increases in climatic conditions on the surface can add significant stress to existing equipment, resulting in decreased performance levels.

Regulated ventilation is another critical area in underground mines where heavy machinery is used. Drills, pumps, load haul dumps and other devices powered by diesel can all affect air temperature and humidity levels underground. A ventilation system is also crucial in removing harmful gasses that occur during extraction. In coal mines, gasses present a fire risk, and in uranium mines, radon can be extremely harmful to health. An effective ventilation system that can ventilate fumes, dehumidify and refrigerate is vital to reducing these risks.

Striking a balance between investing in auxiliary temperature control and maintaining a healthy production rate is vital to managing a mine. Mining operations must dig deeper and harder by improving the working environment, while keeping an eye on overall operating budget.

The problem with permanent cooling and ventilation fixtures at mine sites is that they require a large amount of capital expenditure and are not scalable. Mining operations need to be able to react to global commodity prices and maximize revenue wherever possible to improve efficiency. Therefore, the production system needs to have the ability to expand and grow as the mine grows.

Since climate changes are unpredictable and capital expenditure presents long-term risks, a creative approach is needed across the mining industry. Mining operations need to be able to ventilate and cool with flexibility and as little up-front investment as possible. Mobile, scalable solutions that guarantee improved temperature and ventilation control can provide a flexible production model that allows miners to dig deeper and stay effective in hot climates.

Controlling and regulating temperatures underground as well as extracting contaminants go a long way to ensuring that, when the boundaries of mining exploration and activities are pushed, that miners' welfare and productivity do not suffer as a consequence.