By EPCM World contributor Catherine Chan
Globally mines are being built bigger or deeper, and ventilation is crucial in both cases.
“Given the increasing depth of the mines and the demand for ventilation systems it’s not possible to keep on doing it the way we have been doing it,” says Douglas Morrison, President and CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI). “It’s very unlikely that mines that continue with the current approaches will be able to [continue to] be cost effective.”
Traditionally, ventilation systems in mining operations have been relatively static. Once a ventilation system is designed and implemented, it will continue to run at those predetermined conditions for the entire period of mine’s operation. Conversely, ventilation on demand (VOD) operates by providing “just in time” air. VOD has the capability of shipping air to areas of the mine when it is needed.
“VOD could be a significant change,” says Andrew Dasys, President of Objectivity. “We believe it could have a significant effect on how mines are designed and certainly how they are run.”
CEMI, in collaboration with Xstrata Nickel, Vale, CANMET, and Objectivity established a VOD program aimed at understanding the effect of VOD systems on the underground mining environment. Equipment was installed at both Xstrata Nickel’s Nickel Rim South Mine and Vale’s Coleman Mine by Simsmart Technologies and Bestech, respectively. Each supplier took a different philosophical approach to VOD but both used most of the same sensors, according to Dasys.
By modulating the airflow based on need, VOD can reduce power consumption. But one of the most significant findings was that VOD also has the potential to improve production capacity of the mines.
“Post blast clearing times are reduced by pushing more air from other areas of the mine to flush out the gasses,” says Sarah Perno, Simsmart Technologies’ Director of Sales, in an e-mail to EPCM World. “Similarly you can increase the airflow from unproductive areas to ones of high productivity and increase the amount of machinery and personnel to
the working zones.”