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he regulations of ventilation systems within underground mines that are set by the United States Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) vary depending upon the jurisdiction and mine type. Regardless of these specifications, all mines are required to manage oxygen content, as well as any noxious gases that are present within the air of the mine.
Adequate methods of measuring and monitoring the concentrations of these potentially harmful levels, as well as the presence of any explosive gases within the mines, are also basic requirements of any functioning underground mine.
The Importance of Mine Ventilation
By enforcing appropriate ventilation requirements within the mine, MSHA and other protective organizations ensure the overall safety of the mineworkers. Because air within the mine, especially that which is contaminated by coal or other metal dust, may not follow a natural flow outside of the mine, ventilation systems play a crucial role in keeping these harmful gases outside of the mine and the miner’s lungs.
Appropriate mine ventilation improves the productivity of the mineworkers, reduced accidents within the mine and fewer chronic conditions associated with contaminant inhalation.
Ventilation within any type of underground mine functions in order to introduce fresh air into the workspace of the workers, while simultaneously removing contaminated air from the same location. The removal of such air contaminants is also particularly important in maintaining an overall safe thermal environment that reduces any possible ignitions from occurring within the mine. The basic components of any type of mine ventilation system involve a combination of pipes, ducts, fans, cooling and heating systems, and occasionally air cleaning equipment1.
Types of Mine Ventilation Systems
Two basic types of ventilation systems include homotropal and antitropial systems. Homotropal systems allow for the airflow within the mine to be transported in the same direction as the fresh air, whereas antitropal systems remove contaminated air in the opposite direction of fresh air entering the mine.
Ascentional and descentional ventilation systems are also often utilized within the mine, where the ascentional system relies upon the natural movement of warm air to move contaminants in an upwards direction, whereas descentional systems allow contaminated air to enter the mine at higher elevations within the mine, which are often cooler and drier in nature.
The Serpent by Atlas Copco
Atlas Copco USA is a leading provider of compressed air and vacuum equipment in the United States, providing important industrial tools for a number of construction and mining needs. Atlas Copco’s Serpent Ventilation Fans are specific to underground mining and tunneling projects. This high-pressure fan system is equipped with robust blades that are capable of maintaining proper ventilation for continuous operation. The Serpent fan system also reduces energy consumption by as much as 50% as compared to traditional single-speed ventilation systems.2
Before deciding which type of ventilation system is appropriate for a given mine’s needs, it is important to first survey what types of contaminants are being produced in the work area. Some common types of contaminants that are found in underground mines include welding fumes, diesel exhaust, paint fumes, solvents, chemicals and other harmful gas and dust particles. The expansion or added change to the mine also requires an additional examination in order to ensure the overall efficiency of the ventilation system.
Several computer software systems are also available for mining engineers to plan the placement and design of their ventilation systems accordingly, while also offering various fire, gas leaks and other simulations to fully test the adequacy of the ventilation system before installation occurs. These computer software systems include Ventsim, Mine Ventilation Services, VnetPC, MineFire, DuctSIM and CLIMSIM.3
References and Further Reading
- “Methods to Improve Mine Ventilation system Efficiency” – Centers for Disease Control
- “Serpent” – Atlas Copco
- “Ventilation” – TechnoMine