Engineering & Mining Journal

JUN 2019

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FANS AND VENTILATION 48 E&MJ • JUNE 2019 www.e-mj.com Ventilation systems are the largest con- sumers of power in underground mines, ac- counting for upward of 50% of energy use. Saving on energy costs and ensuring personnel receive clean air where and when they need it is now a business im- perative for mine operators, who are em- ploying a new generation of smart digital technologies to monitor and optimize ven- tilation systems and ensure a safe work- ing environment. While digital tools are relatively new to the mining industry, the key compo- nents of mine ventilation systems have not changed significantly in the past 20 to 30 years, and their primary role re- mains unchanged: to remove buildup of harmful gases and contaminants from un- derground workings, and to provide and circulate a source of clean, breathable air to miners working deep underground. "The ventilation system, as a primary system, is very similar to what you would find 20 to 30 years ago," said Kim Trapa- ni, ventilation engineer, Stantec, based in Sudbury, Ontario. "That is, you still have large fans, usually on surface, driving the ventilation system underground. "The main change has been the intro- duction of automation and control, which is the biggest driver for innovation. This has allowed ventilation on demand (VOD) to be implemented that can control the speed of the main and secondary fans, and automated, regulated louvers/doors under- ground. The ventilation can be controlled through real-time monitoring of sensors un- derground, tags that detect equipment and worker movement, and also programmed events such as blast clearance ventilation or emergency ventilation." Prior to the use of digital communi- cations networks, all ventilation adjust- ments were made manually with data from ventilation surveys, and often this led to the over or under ventilation of cer- tain areas due to changes in production rate, doors that had changed position without feedback, or level breakthroughs. Adjusting the airflow rate on each level was done by adding or removing timbers at the return air raise. Today, thanks to the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), data can now flow freely back and forth from the inner workings of a mine to the surface control room, and the use of high-bandwidth net- works allow controls to be applied to opti- mize each mine's ventilation system. The use of IoT-enabled devices has also reduced the cost and complexity of both measuring and controlling applica- tions in ventilation, as they can plug di- rectly into any network switch on an un- derground communication network. With digitalization, all components that move, direct, and demand air can be connected and communicate. The analy- sis of real-time data from air quality mon- itoring, mining equipment locations and emissions allows a deeper understanding of workplace conditions so that informed decisions can be made for necessary ad- justments and improvements. Digitaliza- tion allows mines to make predictions, increase their efficiency and reduce risk. From a transparency perspective, employ- ees can also understand the state of their environment at all times. Canada Leads the Way "The biggest drivers for innovation in the past 20-30 years are, first and foremost, our ongoing efforts to improve worker health and safety," said Cheryl Allen, man- ager, ventilation and technical support for Vale. "In addition, reductions in the allow- able occupational exposure limits, the cost of energy and environmental responsibility have been key drivers for continuous im- provement. With the digital transformation currently occurring in our mines and the industry more broadly, it's a very exciting time as we explore solutions that we never would have imagined even 10 years ago." Allen will be presenting at AusIMM's Mine Vent conference in Perth, Australia, later this year as a keynote speaker. "I am honored to have been asked to be a keynote speaker at the conference and look forward to seeing discussion on topics such as: application of technology, mine design case studies that consider challeng- es and solutions, current research happen- ing in Australia, methods of controlling air- borne hazards in underground mines and safety initiatives," she told E&MJ. "I am still developing my talk, but I'm planning to cover some of the exciting ini- tiatives we are working on in our North At- lantic Mines, which span across Manito- ba, Ontario and Newfoundland/Labrador, as well as our approach to integrating new technology within our mines into ventila- tion design." Canada, and specifically the Sudbury basin where both Allen and Trapani are based, is home to some of the world's deepest mines. The area has proved a Changing the Face of Mine Ventilation Advances in smart controls, sensors and IoT-enabled devices are providing new tools for miners tackling the ever-increasing challenge of ventilating their underground operations By Carly Leonida, European Editor The ventilation control room at Boliden's Garpenberg mine. (Photo: ABB)

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