Sponsored by: The New York Blower Company
Safe and Economical Ventilation Systems for Underground Mines
Amidst rising operating costs and a shortage of skilled workers, mining companies are constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency, save costs, and retain talent while mitigating safety hazards.
A reliable, high-efficiency ventilation system can help mining companies remain competitive and profitable despite these industry challenges and provides practical guidance to begin the process of selecting ventilation equipment.
The New York Blower Company has decades of experience understanding the unique challenges of each individual application, and providing a complete customized ventilating solution. We have over 300 fans installed in the global mining sector, with a product offering ranging from primary and auxiliary fans, booster fans, dragline coolers and pulverisers, gas drainage and coal loader baghouse fans. We provide full turnkey mine ventilation projects, including all engineering, ,mechanical, civil and electrical works.
More than half of the country’s coal mines are managed by pro-Russian separatist militia.Credit: DmyTo/Shutterstock.
More than half of the country’s coal mines are managed by pro-Russian separatist militia.
Challenges and Obstacles in Safety for Underground Mines
One of the major challenges of underground mining operations is ensuring workers’ safety with adequate airflow, while keeping operating costs manageable and increasing overall efficiency. There are numerous regional safety standards and regulations, with each application varying in terms of required airflow, temperature and humidity changes, and levels of air particulate. Companies are challenged to increase cost savings, by optimizing energy consumption and ensuring employee safety, health and productivity.
AirEng, a fully-owned subsidiary and collaborative partner of New York Blower, has been helping companies to reduce operating costs and increase worker safety through high efficiency mining ventilation solutions for decades. The experience and expertise of these two companies has resulted in the completion of several large mining projects, including a recent contract for Australia’s Gwalia underground mine.
Gwalia Case Study – Australia’s Oldest and Deepest Gold Mine
AirEng was contracted to provide a turnkey high efficiency ventilation system which would reduce operating costs and improve worker safety. One of the biggest challenges was protecting workers and directing cool air from the surface to the workers below. Temperatures at the bottom of the mine would climb to around 87°F (30°C), and without adequate airflow workers would be put at risk to heat exhaustion, oxygen deprivation, and exposure to toxic gases.
AirEng was consulted for their expertise in assessing the current system, evaluating the efficiency, and determining what changes would help produce a more efficient system. The project included primary fans, the electric power unit, and civil construction system. Upon successful installation, the results were improved safety and comfort of the miners, as well as providing a static efficiency in excess of 85%—which helped the mining company save on energy costs long term.
Common Safety Factors
Four of the most common safety hazards include oxygen deprivation, exposure to flammable and toxic gases, inhalation of particulates in the air, and unsafe temperature and humidity levels. System designers need to understand these common hazards and know how to limit or account for these real world challenges. Modifications and customizations are common to help overcome these obstacles.
Fan Types for Mining Applications
Mining applications require the use of several fans within the complete system. Primary fans are installed at the intake side to drive air through the entryway of a tunnel, and at the return side to remove air from the system. Secondary fans, also referred to as auxiliary or booster fans, are smaller, portable fans used for supplemental airflow. Both primary and secondary fans can be axial, centrifugal, or mixed flow fans. Typically both types of fans are used to help facilitate airflow in any underground mine.
Accounting for Differences in Operating Conditions
In order for an engineer to properly design the fan, several key factors must be discussed to account for each applications’ unique challenges. Some of these factors include:
- Aerodynamic and noise requirements
- A sketch showing dimensions of connections to the fan system and where you need pressure
- Corrosive and erosive properties of the air
- Power type available (voltage, frequency)
- Environmental conditions
- Site location and physical limitations
- Required equipment life and reliability
Collaboration between the on-site or project manager, and the fan system designer is crucial for proper fan selection, calculating the system losses and flow conditions, and mechanically designing the fan. With this information, as well as discussing any previous operating inefficiencies, nyb can select the optimal fan for performance, quality, cost, and reliability.
It is important to take into account all possible health and safety hazards, as well as unique challenges and constraints of the location and environment. The best way to do so is to work with an experienced fan manufacturer that can supply a turn key solution and provide ongoing support. With each application having unique challenges, a custom engineered solution is needed to meet the precise requirements. Partnering with a knowledgeable ventilation equipment manufacturer, like The New York Blower Company, can help select a customized solution.
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