Fire warning alarm for underground mines

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 87, No. 980, 1994

Kenneth E. Hjelmstad and William H. Pomroy U.S. Bureau of Mines, Twin Cities Research Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

An underground mine fire can seriously threaten the lives of all personnel in the mine. This fact makes fire emergency planning a high priority in the mining industry. A fire emergency plan includes a means of warning miners of the existence of a fire, and the need to evacuate or retreat to a place of refuge. The warning alarm must be fast and must reach all miners, regardless of their location or work activity. Means of fire warning are varied, and include such methods as stench, flashing lights, telephones, and word-of-mouth (messengers). Unfortunately, none of these methods are entirely satisfactory. Stench can be slow and seldom achieves total mine coverage, especially in high-back room-and-pillar mines with low ventilation velocity. Telephones are effective only where personnel are close enough to hear the phone ring. A novel fire warning alarm system has been developed by the U.S. Bureau of Mines which enables instantaneous warning of all underground personnel. The warning alarm is sent by an electromagnetic signal which penetrates through mine rock from a transmitter to small person-wearable receivers. Each miner's cap lamp battery could be equipped with a small receiver and when afire or other emergency occurs the miner could be alerted to the danger by a blinking of the cap lamp. Testing of prototype equipment has demonstrated that the transmitted signal is capable of penetrating through over a mile of mine rock and activating the receiver. This paper describes the theoretical basis for through-the-rock ultra-low frequency electromagnetic transmission, design of the prototype transmitter and receiver, test results, and status of commercial development of systems utilizing this technology.
Mots Clés: Underground mining, Safety, Mine fires, Fire emergency, Electromagnetic transmission.