MINE SAFETY n Some regions require a separate air lock with a separating curtain to minimise the chance of contamination , others require a sealed air lock with a purge system capable of flushing any potential contaminants from the chamber ; n Some require a connection of mine-supplied air in addition to the on-board breathable air , others do not ; and n Some applications / regions require a specific blast-rated shell , others have no specific requirement . Maust highlighted his experience dealing with mining clients in Mexico as an example of how changing requirements have influenced the flexible design of this next generation chamber .
“ Originally , chambers sold into Mexico were typically sold as 48-hour duration units ,” he said . “ Today those 48-hour units are being upgraded to 96-hour units and all new chambers are being purchased with a 96-hour duration .
“ Mexico also now requires a more robust shell design as part of their regulations .”
Russia is also considering a changed chamber mandate for those chambers deployed in coal mining operations in the country , according to Maust .
“ Strata is manufacturing both chambers and a SCSR ( self-contained self-rescuer ) Change-Over- Station ( COS ) for deployment in the Russian market ,” he said . “ The Strata COS is a shorter duration , positive pressure chamber equipped with a bank of compressed air bottles that provides a clean , uncontaminated atmosphere for escaping miners to change from a depleted SCSR and don a fresh unit .”
When it comes to the all-important communications and remote monitoring systems on board the chamber , Maust says the company has leveraged its own Strata DigitalBRIDGE and DigitalBRIDGE Plus + systems to ensure operators on surface can keep in contact with those below ground in the chamber .
“ Monitoring and communications systems are becoming an important part of the refuge chamber design ,” he said . “ Previously , a mine may include a traditional mine phone , or depend on handheld radio systems , for any communication systems . Today we offer sophisticated systems that include surface monitoring of : n “ Atmospheric conditions inside the chamber such as oxygen and carbon dioxide levels , temperature , humidity ; n “ Contaminants such as carbon monoxide , hydrogen sulphide and other harmful gases ; n “ Live stream video and Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems ; n “ External power and back-up battery system voltages ; n “ Internet and Wi-Fi connections ; and n “ Remote monitoring of the air conditioning system .”
Maust added : “ The Strata systems connect the chamber to the mine ’ s existing network or can be used throughout the mine to carry data to the surface . These Strata systems will operate on existing fibre ( using DigitalBRIDGE ) or existing leaky feeder ( using DigitalBRIDGE Plus +) infrastructure .”
Several mines in the US and Brazil have received metal / non-metal versions of the ERCX chamber already , while the coal and COS versions of the ERCX are in the process of being shipped to Russia and Kazakhstan , according to Maust .
“ Many of these chambers have already been deployed and are in service while the balance will be deployed over the next few weeks and months ,” he explained .
And , the release of the ERCX comes at just the right time for Strata Worldwide .
Earlier this year , the firm signed a distribution agreement with Pennsylvania-based CSE Corp for the promotion and distribution of CSE ’ s line of mine safety products , which includes a range of SCSRs , machine-mounted methane detectors , handheld G4 multi-gas gas detectors and MSHA approved cordless cap lamps .
Maust sees the ERCX being a natural complement to this expanded range of mine safety products .
“ Many of the CSE products are dedicated to escape and safety during a mine emergency as are the ERCX products ,” he said . “ For example , the CSE SRLD 60 minute , belt-worn self-rescuer is a perfect complement to our new ERCX COS , while the Biomarine 4-hour Rebreather is used by mine rescue teams during a mine emergency .”
MineARC Systems , another designer and manufacturer of emergency safety products , is expanding its product line .
It has teamed up with DEZEGA , one of the world ’ s largest designers and producers of mine rescue equipment , in a global cooperation agreement that will see MineARC distribute DEZEGA products worldwide .
This includes DEZEGA SCSRs , which , the companies say , will complement MineARC ’ s own range of life-saving refuge chambers .
In accordance with the pact , MineARC intends to promote and distribute the entire DEZEGA product line , including compressed oxygen selfcontained breathing apparatuses ( SCBAs ) and training self-rescuers to simulate the donning procedure and breathing conditions of an SCSR .
Anton Sakovych , Chairman of the Board of Directors of DEZEGA , said : “ Together with MineARC Systems , we will be able to provide new integrated solutions and advanced technologies to raise safety standards , both for underground workers and mine rescuers , as well as for workers in other industrial sectors .”
Paul Ness , Managing Director , MineARC Systems , added to this : “ The introduction of
SCSRs and SCBAs to MineARC ’ s range means that not only can we shelter and protect personnel during an emergency , but we can now get them there safely too .”
Track and field
In an emergency situation underground , tracking is one of the most important aspects in carrying out a successful rescue .
Meglab has developed a web platform to help this , with its IMAGINE™ software able to locate and track different assets from surface .
The IMAGINE software ’ s modular design allows for several components to be integrated , with the applications independent and able to be added gradually depending on the mine ’ s needs . Some modules have been designed to increase productivity and reduce the mine ’ s environmental footprint while others are dedicated to ensuring a safer environment for workers .
The mine evacuation module allows the control room operator to evacuate the mine with a signal sent through each miner ’ s lamp . The lamp will flash to provide a visual alert ( and / or an audible alarm ) that the workers must evacuate the mine . This complements any evacuation signals already in place at the mine , such as mercaptan gas .
In addition to sending the signal , the lamp alert is activated through a terminal and indicates the location of miners throughout the mine . The control room operator can monitor the progress of the evacuation operation , with the user interface indicating whether workers are safely evacuated or still underground . If a worker cannot evacuate , or is in danger , the operator can then direct the rescue team to the exact location of the worker .
The IMAGINE system also offers the ability for workers to send a signal from the lamp to surface when in danger . Two types of calls for assistance are currently available via the platform : n Panic button – by pressing a button on the cap lamp battery , the worker sends a signal to the surface to indicate that he / she is in distress and / or needs help . Procedures vary depending on the type of lamp chosen and the worker must be within the coverage area of the Imagine network for the call to be transmitted to the surface control room ; and n Man down – using an accelerometer in the lamp , a signal is sent to the surface when the worker loses consciousness or suffers a fall and remains motionless in a horizontal position for a certain amount of time . The operator on surface can then try to communicate with the worker and , if there is no response , the control room operator can alert someone nearby to locate and check on that person . Again , the procedures vary depending on the type of lamp chosen and the worker must be within the Imagine network coverage field for the call to be transmitted to surface .
International Mining | OCTOBER 2020