The ventilation challenge

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 1080, 2004

S.G. Hardcastle and C.K. Kocsis

Worldwide, metal mines are going deeper. For example, in Canada there are six such mechanized mines planning production at 3000 m (10 000 ft). Working at such depths challenges all aspects of mining including the provision of ventilation to supply an equitable working climate for personnel and machinery. This paper explores the overall challenges of supplying ventilation in Canada’s deepest mines and how the volumes required could be minimized. This is essential because it must be remembered that ventilation and refrigeration are not only costly items to supply, but the magnitude of their cost is also very sensitive to the volume supplied. For the primary ventilation system this is obvious because of the cubic relationship between volume and cost. In deep mines, the main function of ventilation is the removal of heat transferred from the strata and generated by the mining machinery, and the air volumes supplied are designed accordingly. The second consideration is the removal of other pollutants that could be harmful to humans such as diesel and explosive fumes. However, the need for ventilation at its present design levels could be reduced. This paper discusses the implications of such technologies as: tele-remote mining and alternatives to diesel equipment on the magnitude of the volume supplied; ventilation-on-demand which recognizes ventilation as a costly and limited resource; plus other aspects, such as the benefits of controlled recirculation, local cooling, and possibly heat rejection back to the strata to gain further advantage from new developments. Furthermore, this paper advances the need to be able to design ventilation systems more cost effectively and how such new advances as process simulators can be used in conjunction with ventilation simulators to explore the diverse options that could affect the air volumes required and provide more realistic economic data upon which to base design decisions.
Keywords: Deep mining, Ventilation, Mechanization, Health, Environment.