Reducing Heat-Induced Health and Safety Problems in Underground Metal Mines Using by Means of Technologies and Renewable Energy-Based Cooling Systems


Karoly (Charles) Kocsis, University of Nevada, Reno

An underground environment with high temperature and humidity conditions generated from various heat and moisture sources can significantly affect the thermoregulation processes of the human body. This can lead to a series of heat related illnesses such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious illness that carries a high risk of fatality if the workers are not immediately treated and the climatic conditions are not corrected. There are two methods used to control the climatic conditions in underground mines: (1) using ventilation/cooling/refrigeration to reduce the thermal stress on the mine workers, and (2) reduce the heat generated by all major heat sources such as auto-compression (AC), strata, mining equipment, and blasting. The heat from strata and auto-compression can be transferred to the ventilating air at varying degrees, as a function of the virgin rock temperature (VRT) and surface temperature. However, the use of mining equipment and blasting processes can be managed and restructured in order to reduce their contribution to the combined heat load of the mine. This paper aims to evaluate and discuss the use of emerging new technologies and advanced haulage systems (e.g. battery-powered mining equipment) to reduce the heat load in the production workings and throughout the mine. This paper will also investigate the practical use of chilled propylene glycol as the source of cooling and quantify the economic and environmental benefits of using renewable-energy based cooling systems and methods in underground mines.