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SCHOOL OF MINING ENGINEERING

UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES


Australia

Underground Mine Environment Course


MODULE 2.0 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINANTS

P.V = m.R.T
2.1 MINE GASES AND GAS LAWS

A Minerals Tertiary Education Council Initiative


MINERALS
COUNCIL
Of Australia

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Revision date December 2003
School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

Contents Page

1.0 INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………………. 3

2.0 MINE GASES……………………………………………………………………………..……… 4

2.1 Diesel Equipment…………………………………………………………………………….. 4


2.2 Explosives…………………………………………………………………………………….. 9
2.3 Coal Seam And Strata Gas…………………………………………………………………. 11
2.4 Mine Fires……………………………………………………………………………………… 11

3.0 PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS AND THRESHOLD LIMITING VALUES…………………… 12

4.0 FLAMMABLE AND EXPLOSIVE GASES…………………………………….……………… 15

4.1 Sources Of Ignition………………………………………………………………………….. 16


4.2 Methane Explosions……………………………………………………….……….………… 17
4.3 Interpretation Of Explosive Gas Mixtures…………………………………………………. 17

5.0 UNITS, BASIC CALCULATIONS AND GAS LAWS………………………………………… 20

5.1 Gas Makes And Dilution…………………………………………………………………….. 22


5.2 Mixing And Recirculation……………………………………………………………………. 24
5.3 Gas Laws Relating Pressure And Temperature……………………………….…………. 26
5.4 Diffusion And Gas Layering………………………………………………………………… 29

6.0 REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………………… 30

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

1.0 INTRODUCTION
Numerous gases may be produced in the underground mine environment as part of the mining
process (diesel exhaust, explosives or battery charging), from strata (coal mine seam gas) or during
mine fires and spontaneous combustion events. Hazards associated with these gases range from
simple displacement of oxygen by inert gases to explosive and or toxic mixtures.

A fundamental design requirement of ventilation circuits, in both metalliferous and coal mines, is that
sufficient volumetric capacity is provided to dilute and remove gaseous contaminants to acceptable
standards as part of normal operations. When ventilation rates required for acceptable dilution are
impracticable, for example in some gassy coal mines or deep mines using large amounts of diesel
equipment, then supplementary controls or re scheduling will be required.

It is normally the case that concentrations of various gases in underground mine atmospheres have to
be kept within limits prescribed by legislation. Routine monitoring will be in place to ensure that these
limits are not exceeded or, if they are, remedial action is taken or workers withdrawn from the area.
Consequently, in addition to accidental exposure to dangerous concentrations of toxic gases or
ignition of explosive gas mixtures, a significant risk is that production will be compromised if
management systems are inadequate.

Sources and properties of various mine gases are extensively documented and generally well
understood. However, with consideration to the dynamic and varied nature of mining, it is essential
that sources of gas at individual mine sites are quantified by routine surveys allowing predictive
relationships to be developed for planning future requirements. For example, these might be seam gas
emission with development panel length in coal mines or re entry times after blasting with
development advance in metalliferous mines.

These module notes summarise key aspects of mine gas properties, formulae and calculation
methods to a standard required for this course. In this respect, they are not exhaustive but are
intended to provide sufficient detail for the training of industry practitioners and undergraduate
education. It is essential that candidates read and understand underpinning references for this
module. Further references are provided for candidates requiring more detailed information.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

2.0 MINE GASES


Fresh dry air is a mixture of gases in relatively constant proportions (20.95 % oxygen, 78.09 %
nitrogen, 0.93 % argon and 0.03 % carbon dioxide). This air is normally uncontaminated when
entering a mine’s ventilation circuit but becomes progressively more contaminated by various natural
or artificial sources of gas as it flows through the workings. At the same time, oxygen concentrations
may be depleted by various processes (e.g. oxidation of coal, diesel equipment or mine fires) or by
simple displacement by other gases.

Most mines operate under specific gas concentration limits, prescribed by legislation for the
underground workings and or for confined spaces on surface. The design objective is to provide
sufficient ventilation capacity, together with appropriate circuit design, to maintain gas concentrations
below these limits. This requires source loads to be quantified and, for coal mine seam gas in
particular, the effect of production rate assessed.

The general hazards (toxic or explosive) of perhaps the most common gases are as follows;

• Hydrogen Explosive
3
• Methane Explosive Lighter than standard air (1.2 kg/m )
• Carbon monoxide Toxic Explosive
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
• Hydrogen sulphide Toxic Explosive
• Carbon dioxide Toxic Heavier than standard air (1.2 kg/m3)
• Oxides of nitrogen Toxic

The properties, occurrence and hazards of some common mine gases are summarised in Table 2.1,
with further details provided in the underpinning references. The exposure Standards for Atmospheric
Contaminants cited in Table 2.1 are those recommended by the National Occupational Health and
Safety Commission (NOHSC) unless otherwise stated.

Details of occupational TLV’s can be found on the National Occupational Safety and Health
Commission website : http://www.nohsc.gov.au/OHSInformation/NOHSCPublications.

Physiological effects and exposure limits for toxic gases are dealt with in section 3.0 below. However,
it should be noted that the term “threshold limit value” or TLV is defined as a time weighted average
(TWA) for a person working not more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. In some regulations
this is also known as the “”long term exposure limit” LTEL. For a person working more than 8 hours
per day or 40 hours in a week it must be adjusted accordingly.

Similarly the term “short term exposure level” STEL is sometimes know as the “maximum exposure
level” MEL. This sets limits for exposure to the atmosphere for not more than 15 consecutive minutes.
If exposure happens it must be at not less than 1 hour intervals and not more than 4 times in 8 hours.
The mine must have a safe operating procedure (SOP) to ensure that the STEL or MEL is not
exceeded.

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Table 2.1 Properties Of Some Common Mine Gases
Gas Density Occurrence Properties Hazards TLV or Limits
3
kg/m
Aldehydes R-CHO Variable Partial combustion of Various forms. for example; Irritation to eyes and nose TLV R-CHO 50 ppm
hydrocarbons in diesel fuel Formaldehyde Acetaldehyde
Worse when idling or rich fuel Acetaldehyde TWA 100 ppm
– air ratio STEL 150 ppm
Formaldehyde
TWA 1 ppm
STEL 2 ppm
Qld Coal LTEL 1.2 ppm
Qld Coal MEL 2.5 ppm

Ammonia NH3 STP=0.77 Acid water on cement fill Colourless but very pungent odour Forms nitric acid on moist surfaces and in TWA 25 ppm
NTP=0.72 respiratory tract. STEL 35 ppm

Carbon Dioxide CO2 STP=1.98 0.03 % of air Colourless and odourless. Oxygen deficiency by displacement and stimulus Non Coal Mines TWA 5,000 ppm
NTP=1.84 Coal seam gas Slight acidic taste at high to respiration;
Engine exhaust concentrations Coal Mines TWA 12,500 ppm
Oxidation of coal or timber 0.5 % = Slight increase in respiration
Low thermal conductivity and 2% = 50 % increase STEL 30,000 ppm
thermal capacity – feels warm in 5% = 300 % increase effects nervous system
high concentrations. 10 % = Intolerable

Desorbs from coal six times faster Sorption pressure in coal may cause outbursts (>
than methane when crushed. 3
5 to 8 m /t).
Carbon CO STP=1.25 Diesel engine exhausts Colourless, tasteless and odourless Very toxic – preferentially adsorbed by TWA 30 ppm
Monoxide NTP=1.16 Mine fires haemoglobin (about 300 times faster) than
Spontaneous combustion of Highly flammable (12.5 to 74 %) oxygen to reduce oxygen carrying capacity of STEL – non given
coal although rarely found in these blood.
concentrations. Mainly a toxic
hazard. Conc Effect Blood
ppm Saturation %
30 None <5
50 Risk for cardiovascular 5
disease. Impaired judgement
200 Slight headache after 2 hrs 20
1000 Severe headache, vomit after 40
30 mins
1500 Possible collapse after 15 mins 50
3000 Collapse after 5 mins 64

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course Ventilation Network Analysis
University Of New South Wales Module 3.1 Gas Laws And Mine Gases

Table 2.1 (continued) Properties Of Some Common Mine Gases


Gas Density Occurrence Properties Hazards TLV or Limits
3
kg/m
Chlorine Cl2 STP=3.21 Salty water in batteries or Greenish – yellow gas Highly toxic – irritates eyes and causes severe TWA 1 ppm
NTP=2.99 active agent in bleach lung irritation
powders

Higher CxHy Variable Seam gas or products of coal Ethylene (C2H4) formed in low Highly flammable N/A
Hydrocarbons combustion concentrations as an indicator gas Not normally present in hazardous
for spontaneous combustion above concentrations from natural sources. May be
150 OC used for oxy cutting or heating.
Ethane (C2H6) occurs naturally in
seam gas
Hydrogen H2 STP=0.09 Battery charging Colourless, tasteless and odourless Highly flammable
NTP=0.08 Spontaneous combustion of Highly flammable (4 to 74 %)
coal Can also be used as an indicator of
Acid water on galvanised pipe spontaneous combustion of coal
Low concentration seam gas
Hydrogen H2S STP=1.54 Coal seam gas Colourless with odour of rotten eggs. Toxic – TWA 10 ppm
Sulphide NTP=1.43 Acidic ground water through Detected by smell at 0.1 ppm < 100 ppm irritation of eyes and respiratory tract STEL 15 ppm
sulphide ore bodies Sense of smell becomes 250 to 400 ppm – bronchial pneumonia
desensitised at high concentrations 500 + ppm – systemic poison
Flammable (4.3 to 45 %)

Methane CH4 STP=0.72 Coal seam gas Colourless, tasteless and odourless Highly flammable Hazardous zone < 0.25 %
NTP=0.67 Flammable (5.0 to 15 %) Diesel equipment < 1.00 %
Most easily ignited 7.5 % Sorption pressure in coal may cause outbursts Electrical equipment < 1.25 %
3
Most explosive 9.4 % (> 5 to 8 m /t). Withdraw workforce > 2.00 %
O
Auto ignition temperature 537 C
The QLD coal mine situation
employs the following categories

ERZ0 zone is > 2.0%


ERZ = explosion risk zone ERZ1 zone is 0.5 % - 2.0 %
NERZ = negligible explosion risk zone NERZ <0.5 %

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course Ventilation Network Analysis
University Of New South Wales Module 3.1 Gas Laws And Mine Gases

Table 2.1 (continued) Properties Of Some Common Mine Gases


Gas Density Occurrence Properties Hazards TLV or Limits
3
kg/m
Nitrogen N2 STP=1.25 78.09 % of air Colourless, tasteless and odourless Asphyxiation n/a
NTP=1.16 Chemically inert

Oxygen O2 STP=1.43 20.95 % of air Colourless, tasteless and odourless Physiological effects of oxygen deficiency are General body > 19 %
NTP=1.33 Required for oxidation and Oxygen % Effect
combustion 21 % Normal
16 % Breath deeper
Causes grease and oils to 14 % Dizziness, impaired judgement
spontaneously ignite at high 10 % Rapid heart beat, nausea, vomiting
concentrations 7 % Loss of consciousness, death

16.0 % - flame lamp extinguished


12.0 % - flaming combustion ceases
2.0 % - all combustion ceases

Oxides Of Nitrogen Blasting fumes Colourless Irritates moist body surfaces by dissolving to TWA 25 ppm
Diesel engines Sweet smell – narcotic “laughing form nitrous and nitric acids.
Nitric Oxide NO STP=1.34 gas” STEL – non given
NTP=1.25 Slowly changes to more toxic nitrogen dioxide in
Nitrous Oxide N20 STP=1.98 air.
NTP=1.84
Nitrogen Dioxide NO2 STP=1.89 Reddish brown, pungent acrid odour Highly toxic – causes pulmonary oedema with TWA 3 ppm
NTP=1.76 possible delay of several hours before damage STEL 5 ppm
becomes apparent. 200 ppm life threatening

Radon Rn STP=9.11 Radioactive decay of radium Radioactive with a half life of 3.82 Immediate decay products are radioactive 25 to 50 mSv per year based on
NTP=8.49 226 associated with uranium days. particles that attach to dust and can be inhaled. decay products.
minerals
Sulphur Dioxide SO2 STP=2.93 Some fuels Colourless with pungent odour 6 to 20 ppm Irritates eyes and respiratory system TWA 2 ppm
NTP=2.73 Oxidation sulphide ore 400 + ppm – immediately life threatening STEL 5 ppm
bodies 500 ppm life threatening

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The main sources of gas in underground mine environments are as follows;

2.1 Diesel Equipment


Diesel fuel consists of 85-86 % carbon, 13-14 % hydrogen and 0.05-0.7 % sulphur by mass. The
3
density of diesel fuel is about 845 kg/m with a calorific value of circa 45.6 MJ/kg, refer Sources Of
Heat And Heat Transfer module 3.2

If 1.0 kg of fuel is completely combusted it requires about 15 kg of air and will produce some 4.5 kg (≈
3
6.4 m ) of exhaust gases. In this case the fuel to air ratio is 1.0 / 15.0 = 0.067 kg fuel per kg air.

The composition of diesel engine exhaust gases depends on combustion efficiency and varies with
engine type, load and maintenance of the engine. Exhaust gases contain complete combustion
products and products of partial combustion including diesel particulate, refer Table 2.2 (Sengupta
1988).

Table 2.2 Typical Complete Combustion And Actual Diesel Exhaust Composition

Complete Combustion Products Exhaust Tests on 6 and 4 Cylinder Turbo Charged


For fuel To Air Ratio = 0.045 Engines
Nitrogen 75.6 % by volume Median ppm Range ppm
Carbon dioxide 8.9 % by volume Carbon monoxide 400 100 to 3,600
Water vapour 8.7 % by volume Carbon dioxide 125,000 90,000 to 138,000
Oxygen 6.8 % by volume Hydrocarbons (unburned) 11,400 760 to 25,000
Sulphur dioxide 195 ppm Hydrocarbon (light fraction) 4,000 260 to 9,000
Oxides Of Nitrogen 735 70 to 3,280
Aldehydes 30 3 to 97

Partial combustion occurs when parts of the fuel injection spray hit the side walls of the cylinder or
reside in fuel rich or fuel lean zones within the cylinder. Partial combustion results in the production of
unburned hydrocarbons, partial oxidation products (carbon monoxide) and soot particulate in the
exhaust.

Gaseous components of diesel exhaust gases are relatively easy to measure and are generally well
understood. However, the particulate component are very small spherical particles (<1 µm in diameter)
and comprise a complex mixture of carbon and various hydrocarbons, some of which are suspected
carcinogens. A high percentage of the particulate is in the respirable fraction with the hydrocarbon
composition dependent on engine load (higher at low engine load or fuel rich mixture). Diesel
3
exhausts gas may contain 40 to 200 mg/m particulate with general body concentrations of below 0.2
3
mg/m considered non irritant, refer Airborne And Explosible Dust, module 2.3.

Allowable concentrations in raw engine exhaust gases vary with mine type (coal or metalliferous), with
a typical requirement being CO < 1,500 ppm NOx <1,000 ppm and NO < 900 ppm (DMR 96).

Typical ventilation requirements for acceptable operation of diesel equipment are a minimum 0.035
3 3
m /s “over the engine“ per kW rated power with 0.06 to 0.08 m /s per kW used for sections of the mine
in which diesel equipment is operated. Coal mines use 0.06 m3/s per kW as an “over the engine”
requirement.

Ventilation is the primary control for managing diesel exhaust emissions, but should be used in
conjunction with operator training, use of low sulphur fuels, adequate maintenance and effective
exhaust conditioning. Exhaust conditioners may be;

Catalytic converters – consist of platinum group metal catalysts for oxidation of exhaust gases above
O
about 220 C. A well maintained unit can remove 90 % of CO and 50 to 80 % of unburned fuel,
converting them to CO2 and water vapour. They also reduce sulphur dioxide emission by oxidation to
sulphur trioxide. However, these converters have little effect on NOx and can actually encourage the
oxidation of NO to the more toxic NO2. The converter design may also include means of trapping
particulates by impaction.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

Water scrubbers - were originally designed as exhaust flame traps and are still used in many coal
mine locations throughout the world. Water scrubbers are reasonably effective in reducing particulate
matter and soluble SO2 concentrations. They have little effect on insoluble component gases such as
carbon monoxide. Although water serves to cool exhaust gases it also increases the water vapour
component of exhaust gases and hence general humidity in the local environment.

Fume diluters – may comprise a venturi or fan used to dilute conditioned exhaust gases and direct
them away from the operator. The actual discharge may point down towards the floor, to the rear of
the vehicle or towards the roof.

Worked Example –Ventilation Requirements For Diesel Equipment

If the requirement for ventilation of diesel equipment is 0.06 m3/s per kW, how much air is required for a
110 kW Eimco and a 60 kW transport vehicle ?
3
Quantity of air = 110 x 0.06 + 60 x 0.06 = 6.6 + 3.6 = 10.2 m /s

2.2 Explosives
The amount and composition of “blasting fumes” produced by explosives depends on the type of
explosive used, it’s charge density, drill pattern – firing sequence used, presence of water and method
of charging.

The quantity of gases formed by 100 kg of explosives typically falls within the following ranges;
3
Carbon dioxide 5.0 to 9.0 m
3
Carbon monoxide 1.0 to 5.0 m
3
Oxides of nitrogen 0.5 to 4.4 m
3
Ammonia 0.03 to 0.3 m
Sulphur dioxide variable low levels

Some general issues and relationships are as follows;

1. During detonation the main oxide of nitrogen formed is nitric oxide NO, with a balance of 25 %
NOx comprising various other oxides. Nitrogen dioxide NO2 is the cause of the characteristic
reddish brown appearance and acrid odour of blasting fumes.

2. More CO and less NOx fumes are produced when blasting hard rocks compared to softer, porous
or fractured rocks.

3. When using AN-FO explosives, both the percentage diesel fuel admixture and type of booster
charge affect fume characteristics. While CO emission rates improve with high excess oxygen,
this may increase NOx generation.

4. Slurry explosives produce about half the CO emission of AN-FO or dynamites. AN-FO produces
about twice as much NOx emission as dynamites and two to three times that of slurry explosives.

5. While much of the gases produced by detonation enter the ventilation system, a significant fraction
will reside within the cracks and fissures of the broken rock pile. These will be released during
loading unless sufficient water has been used to wet down the pile and remove soluble NOx
fumes.

6. Dust can absorb significant amounts of blasting fumes thus increasing the harmful effect of the
respirable fraction.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

Depending on charge density, rock density, cross sectional area and face advance, blasting fumes will
be thrown back some 20 to 50 m from a typical development face. Ventilation requirements for
effective clearance can be estimated from the following equation;

Equation 2.1 Blasting Fume Clearance

Q = L . A . N m3/s
t
Where
Q = ventilation rate required, m3/s L = throwback distance, m
A = cross sectional area, m2 t = clearance time required , s
N = number of air exchanges (circa 5)

It is also common practice for ventilation velocities to exceed 0.75 to 1.0 m/s for complete scouring of
the airway cross section. It is important to recognise that equation 2.1 relates to an exhaust system
where only the throwback distance is to be cleared. In a forcing system the length used will be the
development length. The clearance time will also increase if the end of the duct is some distance from
the face.

Worked Example –Blast Fume Clearance

The fume throwback distance in a 800 m long 4.0 x 5.0 m development heading is 40 m. Estimate
ventilation requirements for 30 minute clearance using an exhaust system ?

Cross sectional area = 4 x 5 = 20 m Nominal quantity = 15.0 to 20 m3/s


2

Quantity for 5 air exchanges in exhausting system Q = 40 x 20 x 5 = 2.2 m3/s


(30 x 60)

Therefore nominal quantity acceptable for exhausting system.

What is the clearance time in a forcing system ?

Quantity for 5 air exchanges in forcing system Q = 800 x 20 x 5 = 44 m3/s


(30 x 60)

Time for 5 air exchanges at 20 m3/s t = 800 x 20 x 5 = 66 minutes


20 x 60

Therefore, at 800 m it is unlikely that a forcing system will clear blasting fumes in 30 minutes and either
longer re entry times will be required or an increase in ventilation rate.

A more sophisticated method for calculating fume clearance times is described in section 5.1.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

2.3 Coal Seam And Strata Gas


Strata gases can be emitted into the workings of both coal and metalliferous mines either directly from
strata or indirectly by ground water.

In coal mines, the main gases of concern are methane, carbon dioxide and sometimes hydrogen
sulphide. In metalliferous mines, strata gases may contain significant concentrations of methane,
nitrogen, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide or radon. Associated with the methane will be smaller
percentages of ethane, propane and other higher hydrocarbons.

The principle means of control is dilution to acceptable concentrations, interception (drainage or


capture) or sealing of the strata surface together with void injection.

The occurrence of methane and carbon dioxide in coal seams is dealt with in more detail in Gas
Reservoir Characteristics module 5.1. The occurrence and properties of the radioactive gases radon
and thoron are dealt with in Ionising Radiation module 7.2.

2.4 Mine Fires


The mixture of gaseous products produced by mine fires varies widely with the type and severity of the
fire. Invariably, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are present with other gases associated with
materials being burnt and temperature of the fire, for example;

Diesel fires (tyres alight) – sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and hydrogen sulphide
Coal fires – methane, hydrogen and ethylene.
Electrical or PVC fires - hydrogen cyanide and hydrochloric acid fumes.

Mine fires are dealt with in more detail in Mine Fires And Explosions module 2.4

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

3.0 PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS AND THRESHOLD LIMITING VALUES


Hazardous substances can be absorbed by the human body in several ways;

1. Through, or onto the lungs by inhalation is the most important in most mine environments, eg
carbon monoxide, silica.
2. Through the skin by contact e.g. hydrogen cyanide
3. Through the alimentary tract by digestion e.g. lead
4. Through the upper respiratory tracts
5. By dissolution in mucus or saliva

Occupational exposure to a particular substance depends on it’s concentration, duration of exposure


and an individuals susceptibility to any harmful effects. The dose response relationship will depend on
the nature of the harmful effect and may be linear, hyperbolic or sigmoid, refer Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1 Dose Effect Relationship And Permissible Dose Levels


(Shroder 1982)

More toxic Dose - response


relationship
linear or non
Death linear

Diagnosable
illness
Detectable
symptoms

First signs of
change
Less toxic

Physiological No detectable
Response harmful effects

Exposure/Dose

The physiological effects of harmful substances that are of most concern in the underground mine
environment are

Irritants mainly effecting some or all of the respiratory tract by chemical action e.g.
nitrogen dioxide

Asphyxiants interfere with the normal respiratory oxidation process either by displacing
oxygen (e.g. nitrogen) or by chemical action (carbon monoxide, hydrogen
cyanide).

Carcinogens by direct or indirect action act on healthy cells to cause a rapid proliferation of
abnormal cells known as cancer e.g. radio active materials, asbestos or
petroleum oils.

Systemic poisons occur in a variety of naturally occurring or introduced compounds in mines e.g.
heavy metals such as lead and cadmium or benzene and fluorides.

Airborne Particulates other than systemic poisons that may cause an adverse physiological effect
e.g. silica, acid vapours and many organic dusts.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

The concentration of airborne contaminants present will most often be expressed as parts per million
3 3
or percent by volume for gases and in mg/m or number of particles p/m for solids. In some cases
3
gaseous concentrations are also expressed on a mass basis mg/m to avoid the need to specify
density (temperature and pressure).

The threshold limiting values (TLVs) for airborne contaminants (gases, vapours or particulates) are
concentration limits below which workers may be exposed without any known adverse effects. These
are internationally recognised standards based on recommendations of the American Conference Of
Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the U.S National Institute For Occupational Safety
And Health (NIOSH).

It is noted by several authors that these TLVs should be treated as guideline values only as they
assume an “average” response by an exposed population and are based on current scientific
knowledge. They do not provide a fine line between safe and dangerous conditions and by the nature
of the consequences of providing inaccurate advice, they may also tend to err on the side of caution.

For example, the recommended 8 hour exposure for carbon dioxide is 0.5% but some coal mines and
other industries work perfectly safely at 1.25 %. With other contaminants, such as lead, improved
scientific knowledge from epidemiological studies has resulted in significant reductions in allowable
concentrations over the past 20 to 30 years.

There are three threshold limiting values to consider, as follows;

TLV – time weighted average TWA – is the concentration to which most workers can be repeatedly
exposed for a normal 8 hour shift per day (40 hour per week) without adverse physiological effect. As
this value represents the time weighted average it is permissible to be exposed to higher
concentrations (excursion limits) provided that the shift time weighted average remains at or below
TLV-TWA and the concentration does not exceed the ceiling or short term exposure limit, if defined.

For work in various concentrations, the cumulative shift average exposure Eav and equivalent
exposure Eeq is given by

Equation 3.1 Calculating Shift Exposures

Eav = C1.t1 +C2.t2 …. +Cn.tn


T
Ci = concentration for period i ti = duration of exposure period, hours
T = total exposure time, hours

Eeq = Eav . T
8

This allows limiting concentrations to be calculated for shift lengths greater than eight hours per day or
40 hours per week. This is acceptable providing STEL or Ceiling limits are not exceeded at any time.
Adjustment of exposure standards to non standard (i.e. 8 hour) workdays may be made following the
guidelines, Tiernan (1998) or DME 1999.

TLV – short term exposure limit STEL – the maximum concentration that workers can be exposed
to for a period of up to 15 minutes (maximum 4 exposures per shift) without adverse effects. For
example the STEL for carbon dioxide is 3.0 %.

TLV - ceiling TLV-C – the maximum exposure concentration that should not be exceeded at any
time. Also called a Maximum Allowable Concentration or MAC. This is applied to toxic substances that
have an immediate effect. For example, the TLV-C for NO2 is 5 ppm.

It must be noted that any statutory obligations applying to the mine site take precedence over these
provisions. It is not normally acceptable to use STEL values for routine mine work.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

The magnitude of the TLV for a particular substance depends on which criterion is used, refer Figure
3.1. This ranges from prevention of first signs of change (lowest) to prevention of diagnosable illness
(highest).

Worked Example –TLV TWA Calculations

In a 12 hour shift, a worker spends 1 hour travelling in areas with negligible CO concentrations, 6 hours in
areas with 35 ppm CO and 5 hours in areas with 25 ppm CO. If the TLV-TWA for CO is 30 ppm is this
acceptable ?

Sum of exposures = 6 x 35 + 5 x 25 + 1x 0 = 335 ppm.h


Note that the time used is for the whole shift, including travel time

Total exposure time = 6 + 5 + 1 = 12 hours

Average exposure = 335 = 27.8 ppm in a 12 hour shift


12

The equivalent exposure on an 8 hour basis Eeq = 27.8 x 12 = 41.9 ppm


8

As equivalent exposure is greater than TLV-TWA of 30 ppm this situation is unacceptable.

When considering air containing a mixture of gases or dusts with similar toxicological effects then the
overall effect is given by the weighted sum of the individual gases.

Equation 3.2 TLV For Mixtures

For an individual constituent gas Ci < 1.0 for compliance


TLVi

For a mixture of gases their effects are summed so that for compliance

C1 + C2 + … Cn < 1.0
TLV1 TLV2 TLVn

Worked Example –TLV Mixture Calculations

In an area using diesel equipment a gas sample shows the following concentrations to be present. Is this
acceptable ?

Carbon monoxide = 15 ppm Nitrous oxide = 8 ppm Nitrogen dioxide = 1.5 ppm

Total = 15 + 8 + 1.5 = 0.5 + 0.32 + 0.5 = 1.32 therefore not acceptable


30 25 3

Some regulatory bodies provide a similar air quality index for diesel particulates.

Note – in every case, regulations applying to a particular mine site must be


consulted in order to determine pertinent exposure limits and therefore design
atmospheric concentrations or ventilation requirements. These may vary by
country, state or even between surface and underground locations. This is one
area of mine design that has values prescribed by law rather than being left to
site specific risk assessment and management plans.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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4.0 FLAMMABLE AND EXPLOSIVE GASES


The most common gases posing a fire or explosion risk that occur in underground mine environments,
are shown in Table 4.1. Of methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the highest risk under “normal”
operating conditions is that due to methane. The concentration of other gases will ordinarily be less
than their TLV-TWA in the general body of air or, in the case of hydrogen, only formed in high
concentrations in localised areas of battery charging.

Table 4.1 Flammable Ranges Of Common Mine Gases

TLV Flammable Nose Point


Chemical TWA range in air % Comb Oxygen Extinctive
Gas Symbol ppm Upper Lower % % Vols of N2
Methane CH4 n/a 5.0 14.0 5.9 12.2 6.00

Carbon monoxide CO 50 12.5 74.2 13.9 6.1 4.15


Hydrogen H2 n/a 4.0 74.2 4.3 5.1 16.55
Hydrogen sulphide H2S 10 4.3 45.5

The nose point is the mixture of gases with the minimum concentration of oxygen capable of forming
an flammable mixture. Extinctive volumes of nitrogen is the amount of nitrogen that must be added to
3 3
form an extinctive atmosphere i.e. m nitrogen per m of combustible gas.

Flammable gases, like any fuel, require a certain concentration of air (oxygen) to form a mixture that
can ignite. If the gas is too dilute, then gas molecules are too widely spaced to sustain combustion
through transfer of heat. Conversely, if the gas is too concentrated then there is insufficient oxygen to
sustain combustion. Concentrations at each boundary define the upper (UEL) and lower (LEL)
flammable limits and are different for each gas.

The upper and lower flammable limits for these gases vary with temperature and pressure, for
example the observed effects of pressure and temperature on the flammability of methane are shown
in Figure 4.1 (Stull, 1977). Note that the absolute concentration values in Figure 4.1 are different to
those in Table 4.1 due to the mode of ignition used under laboratory conditions to test the effect of
pressure.

Figure 4.1 Influence Of Pressure And Figure 4.2 Methane Flame Temperature
Temperature On The Flammability Of Methane
120 3500

One Maximum 3050 k


100 3000
atmosphere
Flame Temperature Kelvin

Flammable 2500
Pressure Kpa abs

80
500 C
250 C

500 C
20 C

20 C
250 C

2000 Upper
60 Threshold 1500 k Limit
1500
Lower
40 Limit
1000
Combustion
20 not sustained
500

0 0
0 5 10 15 20 0 20 40 60 80 100
Volume % Methane Volume % Methane In Oxygen

Increasing temperature widens the explosive range while decreasing pressure reduces the range.
Below about 17 kPa abs, methane molecules are too widely dispersed to form a flammable mixture at
any temperature.

Whether a fire or explosion occurs when flammable gases are ignited depends on the extent to which
the flammable gas mixture is dispersed. A flame occurs when flammable concentrations are confined
to a relatively small part of the airway. An explosion occurs when the gas is more widely dispersed
and intimately mixed with air but remains between upper and lower flammable limits over greater
distances.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

4.1 Sources Of Ignition


The ignition temperature of gases varies with the mode of ignition, the percentage gas present and
movement of the gas away from the ignition source. The ignition temperature of methane lies typically
O O
between 650 and 750 C although, by experimentation, 595 C is the accepted lowest ignition
temperature, (Strang & Mackenzie-Wood, 1990). Once ignited, the flame temperature rises rapidly to
O
above 1500 K depending on percentage methane present. Refer Figure 4.2 for methane flame
temperatures in oxygen.

Numerous potential sources of ignitions are present in mines that can ignite flammable gases or cause
other types of fire, Fires And Explosions module 2.4.

Source Comments
Open flame Oxy cutting or welding
Flame safety lamps
Smoking materials
Mine fire
Spontaneous combustion of coal

Hot surfaces Diesel engines


Mechanical equipment
Normally a fault is required to reach gas ignition
temperatures.

Frictional sparks Cutting picks


Grinding

Electrical sparks Faulty equipment or damage to cables


Non flame proof motors
Electrostatic sparking

Explosives Permitted explosives with lower ignition potential are


available for use in coal mines.

Electrical sparks with energies as low as 0.3 millijoules can ignite methane. Consequently, strict
specifications for the type and use of electrical equipment in coal mines are enforced. In addition,
many types of electrical equipment are classed as contraband, for example mobile phones and battery
watches.

With appropriate control over the use of electrical equipment, the most significant ignition source in
coal mines is frictional sparking. Forty percent of ignitions in Britain 1952 to 1963 and seventy three
percent of all ignitions in USA 1971 to 1976 were attributed to frictional ignitions, (Strang & Mackenzie-
Wood, 1990).

Frictional sparking can be categorised as being incendive or purely frictional. An incendive spark is
one in which particulate combusts (e.g. metal alloys). Purely frictional sparking is where heat produced
is a result of impact (e.g. cutting picks). Incendive sparks therefore tend to be of longer duration than
frictional sparks.

A common cause of incendive sparking in coal mines is due to picks or drill steels impacting on strata
containing quartz and or pyritic minerals. The incendive temperature potential increases with quartz
content and is significant above about 30 % quartz. This includes some sandstones (50 to 75 %) (not
all sandstones contain quartz) and some silt stones (20 to 50%). The risk of incendive sparking also
increase with pick speed and head thrust. Pick sprays and materials of lower incendive sparking
potential are available. Some coal mines in Queensland apply a threshold seam gas content limit of
3
4m /t for control of frictional ignitions by reducing gas emission rates during development.

Of course, the primary control for the prevention of gas ignitions is to avoid flammable concentrations
occurring in or about the workings of a mine. In general, power is turned off at 25% LEL and workers
withdrawn at 40% LEL which, for methane, is 1.25 % and 2.0 % respectively. The primary means of
avoiding explosive mixtures occurring is by provision of adequate ventilation and monitoring of high
risk areas (roof layers or cavities) with handheld instruments as part of routine inspections.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

4.2 Methane Explosions


When ignited, the rapid increase of flame temperature and propagation of the flame front through the
O
flammable mixture results in a rapid expansion of volume. For example, at 1,500 K the increase in
O
volume from an ambient 25 C is 1500 / (273.15 + 25) = 5 times. This rapid expansion causes a
shock wave to move away from the ignition source at a faster rate than the flame front.

At the most explosive concentration of 9.8 % CH4, a confined ignition of gas can result in static
pressures of 600 to 1,300 kPa and flame speed up to 660 to 1,000 m/s. With more violent and fully
developed explosions, the flame front speed approaches that of the shock wave. The explosion is
unlikely to propagate at speeds less than 50 m/s.

Although methane explosions are clearly catastrophic, with the potential for multiple fatalities and
extensive damage, they become significantly more powerful when clouds of coal dust are raised by
the shock wave and subsequently ignited by the flame front, refer Airborne And Explosible Dust,
module 2.2

Behind the flame front, hot gases (CO, CO2 and water vapour) will start to cool causing a reduction in
pressure which may retard the explosion to some extent. The atmosphere is likely to be toxic with low
levels of oxygen.

4.3 Interpretation Of Explosive Gas Mixtures


A common method of representing explosive ranges is on a Cowards Triangle, refer Figure 4.3.

Figure 4.3 Cowards Triangle For Methane

Methane 25
Fuel lean zone w ill becom e explosive if
Lower m ore com bustible added
Air %
Explosive LEL 100
Upper 20
Range UEL
Explosive No mixtures possible in this area
Range CH4
15
Oxygen %

10 50

Nose point 12.2


Oxygen % 5 Fuel rich zone w hich w ill becom e
explosive if m ore air added

0
0
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
5.0 5.9 15.0 Cannot becom e explosive
Methane % even if air added Combustible %

Cowards Triangle and alternative methods of representing explosive mixtures graphically (e.g Ellicot’s
Diagram) are described in more detail by Cliff et al 1996 section 5.4.3. The main issues to note are as
follows;

1. All possible mixtures lie in the area below the line joining 21.95 % oxygen (100 % air ) and 100 %
combustibles.

2. The explosive range of a gas is bounded by the upper and lower explosive range in air and the
nose point.

3. The nose point represents the minimum amount of oxygen required to form an explosive mixture.

4. If the gas mixture is fuel lean then it will become explosive if combustibles are added provided
sufficient oxygen is present.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

5. If the gas mixture is fuel rich it will become explosive if air is added. Otherwise the mixture lies in a
zone that cannot become explosive. This zone lies between the origin and a line joining co
ordinates 0, 20.95 and the axis drawn through the nose point.

The explosive range of methane is normally quoted as 5.0 to 14.0 % with the most explosive mixture
occurring at 9.8 %. While the lower limit remains fairly constant, the upper explosive limit reduces in
lower oxygen concentrations. As described above, the explosive range increases with higher gas
temperatures and the oxygen concentration at the nose point decreases, refer Table 5.2 (Strang &
MacKensey-Wood 1990). The upper and lower flammable limits of all gases are also effected by other
inert gases present, for example carbon dioxide has a quenching effect compared to nitrogen.

Table 4.2 Effect Of Gas Temperature On Explosive Range Of Methane

Temp LEL UEL Temp Nose Point


O O
C % % C O2 %
20 5.0 14.0 20 12.2
50 4.5 16.0 100 10.8
250 4.0 18.5 150 10.4
500 3.0 20.0 200 9.9
250 9.5
300 9.0

Strict limits on methane concentrations in coal mine workings typically result in return concentrations
less than 1.25% (power off) or at worst less than 2.0 % (withdrawal of workers). However, in active or
sealed goafs any range of methane concentrations may occur up to that in the seam gas (> 98 %). In
these areas the explosion risk is managed by keeping oxygen concentrations below that at which the
gas is potentially explosive.

Explosive mixtures of methane are therefore avoided by promoting either fuel lean (general body) or
fuel rich (sealed area) concentrations. In this respect, a high risk zone may exist between the general
body of the working face and active goaf environments behind the face line.

Worked Example – Explosive Range Of Methane

Characterise the explosive risk of the following methane concentrations in air ?

Methane Oxygen
% %
1 2 20 Not explosive unless more methane added – fuel lean
2 7 18 Explosive
3 30 5 Not explosive unless air added– fuel rich
4 6 8 Not explosive if air or methane added

25
Potentially
explosive
20
1
Oxygen %

15 2

10
Potentially
explosive
5 4
Not
explosive 3
0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Methane %

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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Explosive mixtures of gases, other than methane, may occur during mine fires and, in particular, in the
event of a spontaneous combustion of coal. The upper and lower explosive limits of gas mixtures are
calculated from those of the constituent combustible gas gases using Le Chatelier’s principle.

Equation 4.1 Upper And Lower Explosive Limits For Mixtures

UEL or LEL = 100 %


And nose P1 + P2 + …P3
UL1 UL2 UL3

Pi = combustible percent of gas i of total combustible gases present


Sum P1 P2 P3 = 100

Uli = upper or lower explosive limit or nose point, %

Worked Example – Upper And Lower Explosive Limits For Mixtures

What are the co ordinates for the upper and lower explosive range and nose point for a gas mixture
containing the following constituents ?

Methane 8 % Hydrogen 5 % Oxygen 11 %


Carbon monoxide 4% Nitrogen 72 %

Total combustibles = 8 + 4 + 5 = 17 %

Of combustibles present

Methane = 8 / 17 x 100 = 47.1 %


Carbon monoxide = 4 / 17 x 100 = 23.5 %
Hydrogen = 5 / 17 x 100 = 29.4 % 25
Total 100 Potentially
explosive
20
Using values from Table 4.2 and equation 4.1
Explosive
Oxygen %

15
LEL = 100 = 5.36 % combustibles in this ratio
47.1 + 23.5 + 29.4 10
5.0 12.5 4.0 Potentially
explosive
5
Not
UEL = 100 = 25.96 % combustibles in this ratio explosive
47.1 + 23.5 + 29.4 0
14.0 74.0 74.0 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Combustible %
Nose = 100 = 6.1 % combustibles in this ratio
47.1 + 23.5 + 29.4
5.9 13.8 4.3

Percent excess nitrogen at nose point is calculated from the combustible concentration at the nose point
(6.1 % and volume of nitrogen required to make flammable gases extinctive.

Excess nitrogen = 6.1 x 6.0 x 47.1 + 4.15 x 23.5 + 16.55 x 29.4 = 52.46 %
100

Oxygen concentration at nose point is then determined from the amount of fresh air present (the gas left after
subtracting the excess nitrogen and the combustibles), given that fresh air contains 20.95 % oxygen.

O2 = 20.95 x (100 – 52.46 – 6.1) = 8.68 %


100
This mixture is therefore potentially explosive but currently fuel rich

In these calculations the presence of carbon dioxide is treated simply by adding it to the nitrogen.
This is a conservative strategy as CO2 has additional extinctive capacity to that of nitrogen.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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5.0 UNITS, BASIC CALCULATIONS AND GAS LAWS


In the underground mine environment it is often necessary to quantify how much of a particular gas is
present, at what rate is being formed and or at what rate is it being removed (diluted). The basic units
employed are as follows;

Concentration - the amount of gas present by volume as percent % or parts per million ppm. Gas
concentrations are normally expressed as percent when they occur in higher concentrations (e.g. 1.1
% CH4) or in parts per million when they occur in lower concentrations (e.g. 34 ppm CO).

Equation 5.1 Concentration

1.0 % = 1,000,000 = 10,000 ppm


100

Worked Example – Concentration

What is the concentration of 0.5 % CO2 expressed in parts per million ppm ?

0.5 % = 0.5 x 1,000,000 = 5,000 ppm


100

What volume of carbon dioxide is present at this concentration in a container of 85 m3 ?

Volume of CO2 = 85 x 0.5 = 0.425 m3


100

Flow rate - the volumetric flow rate of gas is expressed in three basic units, again depending on the
3 3
magnitude of flow. For larger gas flow this will be m /s or l/s (1.0 m /s = 1000 l/s). However for much
smaller gas flows encountered in coal mines, for example when dealing with carbon monoxide flow
from a spontaneous combustion events, the flow rate may be expressed in l/min.

Equation 5.2 Volumetric Flow Rate

G = Q x C m3/s or G = Q x C x 1000 = Q x C x 10 l/s


100 100
Where G = gas flow rate m3/s or l/s C = concentration % Q = total quantity m3/s

g=Qx C x 60 x 1000 = Q x C x 0.06 l/min


1,000,000
Where g = gas flow rate l/min C = concentration ppm

Worked Example – Volumetric Flow Rate Of Gas

35 m3/s air leaves the section of a mine with gas concentrations of 1.2 % CO2 and 9 ppm CO.
What is the flow rate of gas from the section ?

Carbon dioxide = 35 x 1.2 x 10 = 420 l/s

Carbon monoxide = 35 x 9 x 0.06 = 18.9 l/min

It is important to note that, strictly speaking, both concentration and flow rate should be expressed at a
given temperature and pressure to define gas density and hence volume. However, as with the
assumption of incompressible gas flow in module 1.0, it is normally acceptable to base these
calculations on volumetric flow rates alone. The exceptions will be when there are significant changes
in pressure (gas drainage or compressed air lines) or temperature (mine fires).

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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3
Density the density of a gas (kg/m ) is dependent on the gas or gas mixture present it’s pressure and
3
temperature. Specific volume is the reciprocal of density (m /kg). These are discussed further in
section 3.2
3
Relative Density is simply the ratio of the actual gas density to that of standard air (1.2 kg/m ). A
relative density greater than 1 implies the gas is denser than air and will tend to accumulate in low
areas (e.g. carbon dioxide) and a relative density less than 1 implies the gas is lighter than air and will
tend to accumulate in high spots or cavities (e.g. methane).
3
Mass flow rate the mass flow rate (kg/s) is given by volumetric flow rate (m /s) multiplied by density
3
kg/m . When considering compression or expansion of chemically stable gases it is important to
remember that the mass remains constant while density and volume may change.

Worked Example – Volumetric And Mass Flow Rates

The density of a gas A is 0.9 kg/m3 and is at a concentration of 3 % in an air flow rate of 40 m3/s.

What is the relative density of the gas ?

Relative density = 0.9 / 1.2 = 0.75 ie lighter than air.

What is the volumetric and mass flow rate of the gas ?

Volumetric flow rate = 40 x 3 x 10 = 1,200 l/s = 1.2 m3/s

Mass flow rate = 1.2 x 0.9 = 1.08 kg/s

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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5.1 Gas Makes And Dilution


The rate at which gas is being “produced” in an area of the mine is often termed the gas make, for
example seam gas make from coal mine longwalls. The net gas make for an area of a mine is
calculated from ventilation rates and difference between concentration leaving and concentration
entering the section being considered. Strictly, the volumetric flow rate changes due to the amount of
gas being introduced and the volumetric ventilation rate leaving a section is therefore greater than that
entering Q > Qo, refer Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1 Net Gas Make


3
Gas make G m /s

3
Intake air Exhaust air Exhaust quantity Q = Qo + G m /s

Exhaust concentration C =(100 G + CoQ0)


Qo Co Q C Qo + G

From these relationships, the gas make and intake quantity required to achieve a design return
concentration, are calculated as follows;

Equation 5.3 Net Gas Make

Gas make G = Qo (C – Co) m3/s Quantity Qo = (100 – C)G m3/s


(100 – C ) ( C – Co)
G = gas flow rate m3/s C = concentration, % Q = total quantity m3/s o – denotes intake

If, for practical purposes, it can be assumed that volumetric change due to gas make will not be
measurable with an anemometer, approximate equations for gas make are derived from equation 5.3,
as follows.

Equation 5.4 Approximate Net Gas Make

G = Q x (Cout – Cin) x 0.01 m3/s G = Q x (Cout – Cin) x 10 l/s


Where G = gas flow rate m3/s or l/s C = concentration % Q = total quantity m3/s

g = Q x (Cout – Cin) x 0.06 l/min


Where g = gas flow rate l/min C = concentration ppm

Worked Example – Gas Makes

35 m3/s air enters the section of a mine with gas concentrations of CO2 = 0.09 % and CO = 2 ppm . What
is the gas make in the section if the return concentrations are 1.2 % CO2 and 9 ppm CO?
3
Carbon dioxide make = 35 ( 1.2 – 0.09) = 0.3932 m /s = 393.2l/s
(100 – 1.2)

Carbon dioxide make (approximate) = 35 x (1.2 – 0.09) x 10 = 388.5 l/s

Carbon monoxide make = 35 x (0.0009 – 0.0002) = 2.45 x 10-4 m3/s = 2.45 x 10-4 x 1000 x 60 = 14.7 l/min
(100 – 0.0009)

Carbon monoxide make (approximate) = 35 x (9 – 2) x 0.06 = 14.7 l/min

It is noted that the error involved in using approximate equations increases with the quantity of gas
added. For normal return concentrations of less than 1.0 % the error is within measurement tolerance.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

If the make of gas is known, then it is straightforward to calculate the quantity of air required for
dilution using either set of equations.

Worked Example – Steady State Dilution

A section of a mine produces 300 l/s CH4 , how much air is required to dilute the methane to 1.25 % if it
enters the panel at 0.1 % CH4 ?
3
Using the accurate equation5.3 Q = (100 - 1.25) x 0.3 = 25.8 m /s
(1.25 – 0.1)

Approximate method

Methane make = 300 l/s = Q x (1.25 – 0.1) x 10 therefore Q = 300 = 26.1 m3/s
(1.25 – 0.1) x 10

Steady state dilution of gases, or dusts, employs equation 5.3, relating air quantity, gas make, intake
concentration and design limiting concentration. In these circumstances, the quantity of air is readily
calculated and time is not a factor

In other circumstances, for example clearing blasting fumes or degassing times in previously
unventilated coal mine headings, time is an issue. It can be shown that the rate of change of
concentration follows an exponential function of time from which either the time taken or quantity of air
required for dilution in a specified time can be calculated (Miller and Dalzell, 1982, Sengupta, 1988),
as follows;

Equation 5.5 Dilution

t = V ln G - Q.Co / 100
Q G - Q.C / 100
t = time, seconds. V = volume of excavation, m3
Co = concentration at start, % C = design concentration, %
Q = ventilation rate, m3/s G = gas make, m3/s

When time tends to infinity (steady state conditions) Q = G (100 – C) m3/s


(C – Co)

If there is no gas make, for example clearing gases, t = V ln Co seconds


Q C

Worked Example – Time Dependent Dilution

A 3 x 5 m by 200 m long unventilated development heading has a gas concentration of 2.0% . How long
will it take for the heading to reach 0.5 % after ventilation is turned on at 8 m3/s ?

Volume of heading = 3 x 5 x 200 = 3,000 m3

Time taken = 3000 ln (2 / 0.5) = 520 s = 8.66 minutes


8

How many air exchanges have occurred in this time ?

Volume of air used = 8 x 520 = 4160 m3

Number of air exchanges = 4160 / 3000 = 1.39

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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5.2 Mixing And Recirculation


When two or more air streams mix and they are all at similar temperatures, then the concentration of a
particular gas in the resultant mixture is given by the weighted average of incoming streams. In this
case it is assumed that both mass and volume remain constant at the point of mixing.

Equation 5.6 Mixing Of Air Streams

For n incoming airways, the concentration of the resultant mixture is


Cmix = ΣQi Ci % or ppm
ΣQi
3
Where C = concentration % or ppm Q = total quantity m /s

Worked Example – Mixing Of Air Streams

If 35 m3/s air CO2 = 1.0 % mixes with 10 m3/s of air CO2 = 0.2 % what is the concentration in the mixture ?

Volume of mixture = 35 + 10 = 45 m3/s

Concentration in mixture = 35 x 1.0 + 10 x 0.2 = 0.822 %


45

This can be checked by calculating individual CO2 flow rates.

Flow rate 1 = 35 x 1.0 x 10 = 350 l/s


Flow rate 2 = 10 x 0.2 x 10 = 20 l/s

Flow rate in mixture = 350 + 20 = 370 l/s

Calculated flow rate = 45 x 0.822 x 10 = 370 l/s

Both these calculations represent the same solution – it is a matter of personal choice which is used.

Re circulation is a special case of mixing in which a fraction of the exhaust returns to the intake of a
section. In most mine ventilation circuits (particularly coal mines) re circulation is avoided or
minimised. However, controlled re circulation is used in some mines to improve face velocities without
having to deliver more air through main intake and return airways. Alternatively it can be used with
localised air movers to scour gas sources, refer Figure 5.2.

Figure 5.2 A. Basic District Re circulation Figure 5.2 B. Re circulation Circuit Using
Circuit On Board Scrubber
3
Possible location
Exhaust Q m /s of fans
3
Force Q m /s
3 Face Q + Qr m /s

Re circulate Qr m /s
3
3
Qr m /s Gas source G l/s
3
3 3 Return Q m /s
Intake Q m /s Face Q + Qr m /s
Scrubber quantity exceeds force quantity

The important fact is that the maximum concentration of gas in the circuit is determined by the main
3
ventilation quantity Q m /s and gas make G l/s. Providing the gas concentration is acceptable and re
circulated air is re conditioned for dust and heat, then the quantity through the workings or to the face
is increased to Q + Qr m3/s .

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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Worked Example – Recirculation

A forcing fan delivers 9 m3/s of air to a development heading in which diesel equipment is used and
methane is emitted from the strata. Intake air contains no CO or CH4 and, without recirculation, the
exhaust concentrations are 7 ppm CO and 0.9 % CH4 .

What will the distribution of gas concentrations be if 2.0 m3/s re circulates ?

9.0 m3/s
7 ppm CO
0.9 % CH4 9.0 m3/s

3
7.0 m /s 7.0 m3/s
Point A
2.0 m3/s
Normal Recirculation

Methane make in heading = 9.0 x 0.9 x 10 = 81 l/s

Carbon monoxide make = 9.0 x 7 x 0.06 = 3.78 l/min

With recirculation, the same amount of gas is produced but is now diluted by 7.0 m3/s .

The gas concentrations in the return at point A are;

Methane = 81 = 1.157 % CH4


7 x 10

Carbon monoxide = 3.78 = 9 ppm CO


7 x 0.06

This must be the same concentration in the 2.0 m3/s re circulating fraction, therefore the concentration of gases
entering the fan are;

Methane = 1.157 x 2 / 9 = 0.257 % CH4 i.e the re circulating flow rate is 2 x 0.257 x 10 = 5.1 l/s

Carbon monoxide = 9 x 2 / 9 = 2 ppm CO

In this example, the concentrations of carbon monoxide are acceptable, but diesel operation would have to cease
due to methane concentrations exceeding 1.0 %.

The distribution of methane flow rates are

5.1 l/s

86.1 l/s

81 l/s 0 l/s
5.1 l/s

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
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5.3 Gas Laws Relating Pressure And Temperature


When a mass of chemically stable gas is confined in a system, the number of molecules present
remains constant. From known properties of the gas or gas mixture, the density (mass of molecules
present per unit volume) can be calculated if the pressure and temperature are known. The two laws
that describe these relationships are as follows;

Charles law states that the volume of a gas, at constant pressure, is directly proportional to it’s
absolute temperature. That is, if a gas is heated and the volume it occupies is increased to maintain a
constant pressure, then this volume is proportional to it’s absolute temperature. If the volume was not
increased, then the pressure would rise.

Equation 5.7 Charles Law – Gas Volume And Temperature

V1 = T1 or V2 = V1. T2
V2 T2 T1

O 3
Note that temperature T is degrees kelvin (273.15 + C) and volume is m .

Boyle’s law states that the volume of a gas, at constant temperature, is inversely proportional to the
absolute pressure exerted on it. That is, if the pressure exerted on a gas is increased by reducing the
volume it occupies, and then allowed to stabilise to the same temperature, the volume it occupies is
inversely proportional to the absolute pressure applied.

Equation 5.8 Boyles Law – Gas Volume And Pressure

V1 = P2 or V2 = V1 P1
V2 P1 P2

Therefore, for any gas the change in volume, pressure or temperature can be calculated if any other
two terms are known. The actual volume occupied at a particular pressure and temperature is
determined by the properties of the gas mixture, for which the ratio PV / T = constant, and the amount
of gas present.

Equation 5.9 Combined Gas Law –Volume And Pressure

P1V1 = P2 V2 = constant
T1 T2

Worked Example – Boyles And Charles Law

The density of dry air on surface is 1.2 kg/m3 at a pressure of 101,300 Pa and temperature of 20 OC.
200 m3/s enters an intake shaft. At the bottom of the shaft, the pressure is 114,000 Pa and the
temperature is 25 OC. What is the density and quantity of air at the bottom of the shaft ?

On surface the volume occupied by 1.0 kg of air = 1 / 1.2 = 0.833 m3

The volume occupied by 1.0 kg at the shaft bottom (V2)

V2 = P1V1 T2 = 101,300 x 0.833 x (273.15 + 25) = 0.753 m3


T1 P2 (273.15 + 20) x 114,000
3
Density at shaft bottom = mass / volume = 1.0 / 0.753 = 1.328 kg/m
3
Quantity of air on surface = 200 m /s therefore the mass flow rate of air = 200 x 1.2 = 240 kg/s = constant
3
Therefore, for 240 kg/s at shaft bottom, the quantity = 240 x 0.753 = 181 m /s

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

Note that, although the volume, pressure and temperature may change the mass or mass flow rate
remains constant. The value of the gas constant is specific to a particular gas. Using R to represent
the constant (the units of R are kJ/kg K ), and for unit mass (1.0 kg), the relationship can be written,

Equation 5.10 Gas Law Per Unit Mass

P.V = R or P.V = R.T


T

For a mass of gas m kg, the relationship can then be written;

Equation 5.11 Gas Law For Any Mass

P.V = m.R or P.V = m.R.T


T

Based on experimentation (Avagadro’s hypothesis), it can be shown that equal volumes of all gases
contain the same number of molecules when at the same temperature and pressure. For example, at
3
the same temperature and pressure 1.0 m of methane contains the same number of CH4 molecules
3
as 1.0 m oxygen contains O2 molecules.

As density is determined by mass per unit volume, the density of a gas must therefore be proportional
to it’s molecular mass.

A mol is a quantity of gas with a mass numerically equal to it’s molecular mass and contains 6.02283 x
26
10 molecules (Avagadro’s number). For example, oxygen has an atomic mass of 16 and a molecular
(O2) mass of 32. By this definition, one mol of oxygen weighs 32g = 0.032kg .The molecular mass of
common gases are shown in Table 5.1

Table 5.1 Molecular Mass Of Common Gases

Element Symbol Atomic Gas Symbol Molecular


Mass Mass g/mol
Carbon C 12.010
Air 28.856
Hydrogen H 1.008
Carbon dioxide CO2 44.010
Nitrogen N Carbon
14.010 CO 28.010
monoxide
Oxygen O 16.000 Methane CH4 16.042
Sulphur S 32.060 Nitrogen N2 28.020
Oxygen O2 32.000
Water vapour H2O 18.016
For example, molecular mass of CO2 = 12.010 + 2 x 16.0 = 44.010 g/mol

Note that molecular masses shown in Table 5.1 are in grams but kilograms are required for
calculation. In equations 3.10 and 3.11, R is a constant for a specific gas. However, because the
volume occupied by a mol of any gas is the same, this can be written in terms of a universal gas
constant Ro, where;

R = Ro and the ratio m = number of mols. Ro = universal gas constant, 8.31436 kJ/kg mol K
M M M = molecular mass of the gas

The Universal Gas Law is then written as;

Equation 5.12 Universal Gas Law For Any Gas

P.V = m.Ro.T P.V = N.Ro.T or density ρ = m = P M kg/m3


M V Ro T
N = number of moles

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

Worked Example –Gas Density

What is the density of carbon dioxide at STP( 101,325 Pa and 0 OC) ?

ρ=m= PM = 101,325 x 0.04401 = 1.96 kg/m3


V Ro T 8.31436 x (273.15 + 0)

What is the density of a gas mixture containing 40% carbon dioxide and 60 % methane at STP ?

Molecular mass of mixture = 0.4 x MCO2 + 0.6 x MCH4 = 0.4 x 0.04401 + 0.6 x 0.016042 = 0.0272 Kg/mol

ρ=m= PM = 101,325 x 0.0272 = 1.21 kg/m3


V Ro T 8.31436 x (273.15 + 0)

If 2.5 m3/s of this gas is reticulated through a pipe at –25 kPa and 25 OC, what is the density and flow rate
in the pipe ?

At STP 1.0 kg occupies a volume of 1/1.21 = 0.826 m3

At –25 kPa gauge and 25 OC the volume occupied by 1.0 kg is


3
V 2 = P 1V 1 T2 = 101,325 x 0.826 x (273.15 + 25 ) = 1.197 m
T1 P2 (273.15 + 0) x (101,325 – 25,000)

Note that the absolute pressure in the pipe (101,325 – 25,000 Pa) must be used

Mass flow rate at STP = 2.5 x 1.21 = 3.025 kg/s


3
Flow rate in pipe = 3.025 x 1.197 = 3.62 m /s

Again the fact that mass flow rate must remain constant although volume changes is used.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

5.4 Diffusion And Gas Layering


The rate of diffusion of a gas in air is described by Graham’s Law. This states that the rate of diffusion
is proportional to the square root of the ratio of the densities of gas and air.

Equation 5.13 Diffusion Rate

Rate of diffusion ∝ ρair


ρ

This means that lighter gases will diffuse more rapidly than heavier, denser gases. Importantly it
means that gases will move in an air body in all directions and not necessarily that dictated by relative
density.

Gas layering normally refers to high concentrations of methane at roof level or in roof cavities but is
also of concern in mines where high concentrations of carbon dioxide may occur at floor level or in
sumps. Although methane occurs at floor level and carbon dioxide at roof level due to diffusion and
airway turbulence, layering occurs when there is sufficient gas present for density effects to overcome
these other forces to some degree.

The velocity required to prevent layering can be estimated for horizontal airways from the following
equation. In inclined airways the velocity will have to be increased if the flow of gas, i.e. methane up
dip and carbon dioxide down dip, is in the same direction as ventilation.

Equation 5.14 Velocity Required To Avoid Layering

LN = V
3 g . ∆ρ G
ρair W
Where
V = air velocity, m/s g = gravity, m/s2 G = gas make, m3/s
∆ρ = relative density difference ρair = density of air, kg.m W = width of layer,m
3

Plotting the layering number for methane and carbon dioxide shows that they are similar due to the
similarity in their relative density difference to air, i.e. CO2 is heavier than air by a similar amount than
methane is lighter, refer Figure 5.3.

Figure 5.3 Layering Number For CH4 and CO2


(Width = 5.0 m and Gas make – 10 l/s)
Industry experience is that little mixing
occurs for layering numbers less than 12
2.0. Typically plan values of Ln = 5.0 for
10
horizontal and Ln = 8.0 for inclined
Methane
airways are used. This suggests that in
Layering Number

8
typical mine developments air velocities
of between 1.0 and 1.5 m/s are 6 Carbon Dioxide
appropriate to prevent layering. Plan
4
An issue arising from this analysis is
that the high risk area in coal mines are 2
development faces under auxiliary
0
ventilation where velocities are typically
0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
much less than 1.0 m/s. Air Velocity m/s

Developing faces are also prone to intersect high gas emitting fissures or bore holes at roof level.
When combined with a stone roof leading to incentive sparking on picks there is a real danger of
frictional ignitions.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

6.0 REFERENCES

6.1 References Underpinning This Module


Cliff D et al “Mine Fires In Australian Underground Coal Mines”
Pub Safety In Mines Testing And Research Station (SIMTARS) 1998

Le Roux W.L. 1990 “Le Roux’s Notes On Mine Environmental Control


Ch.1 Properties Of Air
Ch.2 Gases
Ch.13 Mechanised Mining Note 13.2 Pollutants generated by diesel equipment”
Ch.17 Principles Of Pollution Note 17.1 Toxicology Note 17.2 Air Pollution
Control”
Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa

6.2 References Contained In The Course Notes


th
Tereblanche, A.P.S. 1992 “Health Aspects Of Diesel Emissions In Trackless Mining” 5 International
Mine Ventilation Congress, Johannesburg

Thakur, P.C et al. 2002 “Federal Regulations vs. Diesel Exhaust Control In United States Coal Mines”
9th United States Mine Ventilation Symposium, Kingston, Ontario

Gangal, M. and Grenier, M. 2002 “An Overview Of Regulations To Control Diesel Emissions In
Canadian Mines” 9th United States Mine Ventilation Symposium, Kingston, Ontario.

6.3 Further References


Cliff D et al 1999 “Interpretation Of Mine Atmospheres – Particularly For Spontaneous Combustion
Mine Fires And Explosions” Pub Safety In Mines Testing And Research Station (SIMTARS)

Cliff D et al 1996 “Spontaneous Combustion In Australian Coal Mines”


Pub Safety In Mines Testing And Research Station (SIMTARS)

DME 1999 “Adjustment of Exposure Standards for Extended Workshifts, Guideline”


Department of Minerals and Energy, March 1999, Document no. ZME263AA

DMR 96 “Guidelines For Safe Mining” Pub NSW Dept.Mineral Resources 1996

Greig J.D. “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines – Ch 26 Gases Encountered in Mines”
Published be Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa 1982.

McPherson M.J 1993 “Subsurface Ventilation And Environmental Engineering - Ch 11 Gases In


Subsurface Openings and Ch 12 Methane” Pub Chapman And Hall ISBN 04122353008

Miller E. and Dalzell R, 1982 “Mine Ventilation And Air Conditioning- Ch.3 Mine Gases”
Pub John Wiley & Sons, New York – Ed. Hartman H.L. 1982

Schroder H.H.E. “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines – Ch 13 Threshold Limit Values
Of Hazardous Substances” Published be Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa 1982.

Sengupta 1988. “Mine Environmental Engineering – Ch 1 Diesel Emissions Ch4 Fumes From
Explosives” Pub CRC Press Inc Florida 1990.

Strang J. And Mackenzie-Wood P. 1990, “A Manual On Mines Rescue, Safety And Gas Detection”
CSM Press NSW Australia 1990

Stull D.R 1977 “Fundamentals Of Fire And Explosion”.


Published by American Inst. Chem. Eng. AIChE Monograph Series No.10 Vol. 73 New York 1977

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine environment Course
2002 University Of New South Wales Module 2.1 Mine Gases And Gas Laws

Tiernan G and Van Zanten D (1998) “Development of an Extended Shift Exposure Limit Adjustment
Factor for Coal Mine Dusts” , Report to the Joint Coal Board

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SCHOOL OF MINING ENGINEERING
UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Australia

Underground Mine Environment Course


MODULE 2.0 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINANTS

2.2 ATMOSPHERIC GAS MONITORING

A Minerals Tertiary Education Council Initiative


MINERALS
COUNCIL
Of Australia

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Revision date December 2003
School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

Contents Page

1.0 INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………………… 3

2.0 GAS DETECTION SYSTEMS…………………………………………………….……………… 4

2.1 Visual Inspection……………………………………………………………………………….. 4


2.2 Flame Safety Lamp…………………………………………………………………….……… 4
2.3 Chemical Tubes………………………………………………………………………………… 4
2.4 Electronic Gas Detectors……………………………………………………………….……… 5
2.4.1 Handheld Instruments…………………………………………………………………… 5
2.4.2 Non Handheld Instruments……………………………………………………………… 5
2.4.3 Reliability Of Data And Comparison Of Methods……………………………………… 9

3.0 INTERPRETATION OF DATA AND REPORTING………………………………………………12

4.0 CALIBRATION AND MAINTENANCE……………………………..…………………………… 15

4.1 Definitions………………………………………………………………………………………. 15
4.2 Calibration………………………………………………………………………………………. 15
4.3 Maintenance……………………………………………………………………………………. 17

5.0 INSTALLATION AND OPERATION…………………………………..………………………… 18

5.1 Gas Monitoring system design………………………………………………………….……. 18


5.2 Examples of detector locations………………………………………………………………. 20

6.0 REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………..………… 21

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

1.0 INTRODUCTION

This module describes types of instrumentation available for monitoring the gas composition of
underground mine atmospheres and issues arising from their use.

A wide variety of handheld and fixed monitoring systems are available to the mining industry. Typically
metalliferous mines require real time monitoring for detection of equipment fires with routine general
body sampling, using handheld instruments or chemical tubes, to test for diesel exhaust or blasting
fume gases.

Coal mines normally require much more sophisticated real time gas monitoring system(s) to determine
the composition of general body and sealed goaf atmospheres for management of methane explosion
and spontaneous combustion hazards in addition to equipment fires.

In all cases it is important that monitoring systems are appropriate for the hazards present and the
often vast amount of data produced is appropriately analysed for timely decision making. A balance
needs to be made between inadequate monitoring, where hazardous events may be missed, or
excessive monitoring where so much data is produced and analysed that prevailing conditions
underground cannot be reported in sufficient time.

These module notes summarise key aspects of gas monitoring and instrumentation to a standard
required for this course. In this respect, they are not exhaustive and should only be used for guidance.
It is essential that candidates read and understand underpinning references for this module. Further
references are provided for candidates requiring more detailed information.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

2.0 GAS DETECTION SYSTEMS


The following sections provide a general description of gas sampling methods and instrumentation.

2.1 Visual Inspection


In most underground mining environments, it is immediately apparent if the ventilation system is
adequate for the dilution and removal of gasses and dusts produced by diesel equipment and
explosives. It is also the case that some early indicators of spontaneous combustion events can be
detected by human senses (smell, haze and condensation). Although a subjective assessment, visual
inspections provide an important part of a mines “monitoring” system and should not be undervalued.

Of course there are a number of toxic and explosive gases that cannot be detected by human senses
(CH4 and CO) even at immediately hazardous concentrations. These require a means of direct
qualitative measurement.

2.2 Flame Safety Lamp


The flame safety lamp is probably the most widely recognised and oldest gas detection instrument
used in underground coal mines. Although still widely used in the coal industry, many mines now
exclusively use electronic instruments. Indeed, the use of flame safety lamps is not permitted in
Queensland coal mines after a lamp was the suspected cause of an underground gas explosion.

The flame safety lamp is used by observing the size of a faint blue “cap” caused by methane burning
above a flame. The flame burns within a gauze chamber to prevent flame propagation outside the
lamp in the event of an explosive mixture occurring. The lamp can also detect oxygen deficiency as
flame extinguishes at 14 to 17 % O2 and at about 3.0 % CO2.

The flame safety lamp is used in some metalliferous mines in other countries where methane occurs,
but in most cases electronic detection is now employed.

2.3 Chemical Tubes(Also called Stain or indicator tubes)


These comprise a sealed glass tube containing granular chemically active material. Samples are
taken by snapping off the ends of the tube and drawing a set volume (usually 100 ml) through the
chemical with a standard hand aspiration pump. The tube may have more than one scale which will
require a different number of samples to be drawn through the chemical. The number of aspirations
required is shown at the base of the scale e.g. n = 5, refer Figure 2.1.

As the chemical in the tube is exposed to the atmosphere, a visible stain is produced by reaction with
the gas for which the tube is designed to detect. The gas concentration is read from the scale for the
appropriate number of aspirations.

Figure 2.1 Chemical Tube, Hand Pump And Exhaust Cooling Tube
Chemical tube

H2S n=5
60

40

20

10
5

H2S n=5
60

40

20

10
5

Hand pump

Pre cooler for exhaust gas testing


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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

2.4 Electronic Gas Detectors


Numerous electronic gas detectors are available using a number of chemical or physical characteristic
detection principles.

2.4.1 Handheld Instruments


Catalytic Combustion Detectors – comprise a platinum or palladium coated filament and inert
filament connected in a Wheatstone bridge circuit. The concentration of flammable gases is
determined by measuring the heating effect on the active filament by it’s change in resistance.

These instruments are cross sensitive to various flammable gases and will give a low reading when
oxygen concentrations are below 10 %. The sensors also become insensitive after exposure to high
concentrations of flammable gases. Consequently, they are suitable for general body sampling but not
for sealed areas.

In addition they respond to all flammable gases present and though calibrated against methane say,
they will respond to varying degrees to other gases. The relative response factors are listed below,

Gas Methanometer reading


Methane 1.00
Carbon monoxide 0.39
Hydrogen 1.24
Ethane 1.61
Propane 1.96

Thermal Conductivity Detectors – measure the rate of cooling of an electronic filament in a gas
sample compared to that in a reference gas using a Wheatstone bridge circuit. Handheld instruments
are available for methane. As with the catalytic combustion devices, gases other than methane can
cause a response unless filtered out. Carbon dioxide for example responds at about 50% of the
methane response but in the reverse direction.

Electrochemical Detectors – comprise two electrodes immersed in an acidic electrolyte that


measures the electrolytic or chemical reaction of a gas by the change in potential across the cell. The
electrical current produced is proportional to the gas concentration.

These sensors may also be cross sensitive to other gases, have a limited range, finite sensor life and
do not function accurately in low oxygen concentrations. These are again suitable for general body
rather than sealed area monitoring.

Used for CO, CO2, NOx, NO2, H2S, SO2 , Cl2 HCl, NH3, HCN and O2 in handheld instruments.

Electrochemical cells used for measuring oxygen operate on a partial pressure or concentration
(capillary action) basis. Partial pressure cells are sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure and
require a correction of about 0.1 % O2 per 40 m change in elevation.

Infrared Detectors - comprise a sampling chamber containing an infra red source and detector. As
gases pass through the chamber they adsorb infrared radiation and therefore alter the detectors
response. The instruments are “tuned” to specific gases and, with appropriate calibration, operate to
an acceptable accuracy in atmospheres containing low concentrations of oxygen.

Used for CO, CO2, CH4 and previously only available in fixed surface or large mobile instruments but
now available in handheld instruments, for example the Drager Multiwarn.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

Hand held devices should be selected on the basis that:

• They can operate for at least the full shift without needing to change batteries
• They can be recharged within an appropriate time (eg. ready for next day)
• They are not cumbersome or too heavy to carry.
• They meet any statutory requirements (eg. intrinsic safety)
• They can be easily read underground under low light conditions
• They are robust
• They have the required level of accuracy for the task in hand in terms of suitable ranges and
accuracies
• They are easy to use
• They have suitable alarm functions where appropriate, that are clearly audible/visible under
normal working conditions. These functions must also be appropriate for the nature of the alarm.

2.4.2 Non Handheld Instruments


Infrared – Although portable and handheld infrared instruments are now available, a common use of
infrared systems is as surface based tube bundle sensors. In these systems, larger and more accurate
detection chambers are used to provide multi range monitoring of samples. For example, a single unit
may have two ranges 0 to 10 % and 0 to 100 % CH4. They can also be used to analyse discrete bag
samples from general body or sealed areas. There is some overlap between the infrared spectra of
key gases, for example high concentrations of CO2 can cause a small response on a CO analyser and
the N2O infrared spectrum has quite a significant overlap with the infrared spectrum of CO. It is
therefore essential to ensure that suitable optical filters are employed and the devices will operate
accurately under the conditions desired at the mine.

Paramagnetic – uses the paramagnetic properties of oxygen to measure it’s concentration as it


passes over a magnetic field. Paramagnetic instruments are cross sensitive to NOx and, to a lesser
extent, CO2. These instruments normally complement surface based infrared instruments in tube
bundle systems.

Gas Chromatography – provides probably the most accurate means of measuring a wide range of
gases, including hydrogen and higher hydrocarbons. Gas chromatographs work by passing a sample
through a long tube in a carrier gas (such as helium, argon or nitrogen). The tube contains materials
that control the rate each gas can flow through the tube. Molecular sieve columns use the molecular
size of the gas as the basis of retardation. Other coated columns use the polarity or electronic
attraction of the gas molecule to the substrate as the mechanism of retardation. The rate at which gas
molecules pass through the tube identifies the gas. The quantity of gas present is determined by non
specific detectors such as hydrogen flame ionisation, thermal conductivity, electron capture, photo
ionisation or flame photometric detectors. Some gas chromatographs use more than one column and
multiple detectors to improve sensitivity and specificity.

Recent technological advances now make gas chromatographs suitable as mine site based
instruments for analysis of tube bundle and or discrete bag samples. Originally it could take up to 30
minutes to analyse a sample, but sampling times have been greatly reduced on modern machines to
less than 90 seconds. All Queensland and some New South Wales underground coal mines now have
gas chromatographs on site.

Telemetric Sensors – a number of monitoring systems are available in which remote sensing devices
communicate via hard wire or radio links to a central control computer. Some systems are powered
from surface through a 4 core communications cable, intended for use in coal mines when
underground power may not always be available. Other systems provide general monitoring
communication links for numerous equipment monitoring applications and two way PLC control.

Subject to approval requirements (intrinsically safe or flame proof in coal mines) that may apply, any 4
to 20 mA device may be employed in these systems. For example, some mines integrate data from
gas monitors with data from velocity or pressure differential transducers to automatically calculate gas
emission rates or trends of oxygen in sealed areas with barometric pressure. It is also possible to
adjust ventilation control devices in response to pre determined trigger levels, refer Figure 2.2.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

Figure 2.2 Schematic Telemetric Monitoring Systems

Decoder and
control software Communicates to
control computer

4 Wire
communication and
power loop
Example of regulator
setting gas, velocity
Powered from surface and pressure sensors
gas detection sensors

Communicates to
control computer

Gas Junction CO2


sensors box Branch line
CH4
PLC control
CO2

CH4 Position
transducer

Regulator
Number of sensors limited by voltage V P pressure
drop in cable but operates with power Underground drop
off underground power CH4
required
Regulator
activation

Requires separate communications and power cables


and only communicates if local PLC operational.

Allows any number gas sensors, transducers and control


activators to be controlled by PLC

In addition to conventional gas monitoring, a number of fire detection systems can also be employed
using alternative detection methods, for example smoke detectors or infrared thermal imaging. These
may be considered more appropriate for detecting many equipment fires where detectable
concentrations of gaseous products of combustion only occur at a very advanced stage.

In some countries, combination sensors have been developed that can discriminate against particular
sources of emission. For example: a combined CO and NO2 detector has been developed to
discriminate against diesel vehicles.

Tube Bundle - refers to a means of remote sampling in which coloured plastic tubes, of about 6 mm
ID, are run from surface to various underground sampling points. The underground end of the tube is
normally fitted with a ceramic filter and flame trap and may be located in the general body or through
seals. The surface end of the tubes are connected to suction pump(s), typically in banks of 5 tubes,
which discharge through PLC controlled solenoid valves, refer Figure 2.3.

The surface sampling pumps continuously draw gas through the tubes which then pass through the
surface analysers (infra red or gas chromatograph) in a predetermined sequence. When not being
analysed the tube discharges to atmosphere. The sample time per tube includes flushing of water
traps and instrument chamber in addition to a 0.5 to 1.0 minute count, this may total 2 to 3 minutes.
Therefore, a 20 tube sequence will take 40 to 60 minutes for one cycle.

It is important to note that, depending on length, the residence time of gas samples in the tube may be
30 minutes to much more than an hour. The consequence of this and the tube sampling sequence is

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

that the current value being displayed may be up to 2 or 3 hours old. It is also the case that short
duration peaks may be missed due to the sampling sequence.

The sampling sequence controlling the solenoid valves is set by the PLC which can be adjusted to suit
sampling protocols. For example, critical tubes can be repeated in the sequence table. However, tube
bundle systems are most appropriate for long term accurate trending rather than for immediate action
response.

Figure 2.3 Schematic 15 Point Tube Bundle System


With Infra Red And Paramagnetic O2 Detectors
Discharge to
atmosphere

Outlet for other


sampling (GC)
Main
pumps
CO
CO2
De
Humidifier
CH4
Sample O2
pump

Solenoid valves
controlled in Calibration or bag
sequence sample gas inlet

Individual tubes

Communicates to
control computer
PLC control

Individual tubes
several kms long

Tubes “bundled” Sealed area tube angled


together and suspended to prevent water
Flame traps accumulation in tube
from catenary wire

Water traps

General body filter


and flame trap

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.2 Atmospheric Gas Monitoring

An example of standard tube bundle point locations for a coal mine longwall circuits is shown in Figure
2.3.

Figure 2.3 Typical Locations In A Longwall Coal Mine Circuit

Start bleeder
Perimeter bleed
Active goaf T
monitoring Tailgate
T inbye

T Bleeder
inbye
T
T T
Tailgate goaf
T
Development
return T
T Bleeder One tube for
T T T T
each return

T General body tube


Tailgate Goaf tube
Maingate outbye Sealed T
intake goaf

The main operational issues to be considered with a tube bundle system are;

1. As the tubes are at negative gauge pressure, air will leak into the tube through leaking joints or
damaged tubes. This results in dilution of general body samples and false high oxygen
concentrations in samples from sealed areas.

2. In addition to calibration of surface analysers, it is also required for tube integrity to be checked by
periodically injecting calibration gas into underground sampling points. If times are recorded this
also serves to quantify gas sample transit times.

3. Tubes often become blocked by water due to condensation of warm humid gas samples. Tubes
should be installed to avoid low spots and may also require water traps.

4. Provision for applying compressed air to the tubes at surface can be used to clear blocked tubes
(with caution not to blow joints apart) and to detect leaks.

Bag Sampling – provides a means of obtaining an accurate, wide ranging gas analysis from any
accessible point within a mine, either general body, gas drainage range or sealed area by means of a
sampling tube. Typically, plastic lined, foil “wine” bags are filled with a gas sample by means of a
handheld aspiration pump after flushing and re filling two to three times. The sample contained in the
bag is then taken to surface for analysis through infra red sensors or a gas chromatograph.

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2.4.3 Reliability Of Data And Comparison Of Methods


Whatever system, or combinations of systems, are selected, the following issues should be
considered;

Accuracy – measure of error normally expressed as percent of reading or full scale deflection, eg 5 %
of 1000 ppm full scale deflection = 50 ppm. In dual range infrared instruments an error can occur if the
instrument changes range during the count period and does not stabilise by the time the reading is
taken. Accuracy is the overall deviation of the measured value from the actual value and
encompasses all the potential sources of error.

Precision – smallest displayed unit, for example 0.01 %. Note that displayed precision should not be
taken to imply accuracy. This is important when analogue data is converted to digital and reported for
analysis and comparison with alarm or trigger levels. It is usually the case that reporting data to the
minimum number of decimal places required to reflect accuracy removes any ambiguity.

Resolution - relates to the ability of an analyser to differentiate between measurements. The limit of
resolution is that value below which two measurements cannot be validly distinguished.

Reproducibility – the ability of repeated measurements of the same sample to give the same answer.
The tolerance is the limit of reproducibility.

Cross sensitivity – as with chemical tubes, some electronic sensors with be cross sensitive to other
gases eg CO sensors also respond to hydrogen and ethane. This effect should be quantified and
included in factors to be considered when alarm levels are reached.

An example to illustrate this is using a methanometer to measure the concentration of methane in a


sample that actually contains 2.50 % Methane, 1.0 % hydrogen, 1.0 % carbon monoxide and the
balance air. The device displays to one decimal place so its precision is +/- 0.1% . When calibrated
it is able to reproducibly determine values to within 10 % of the measurement or 0.1 % which ever is
the greater. The calibration challenge tests indicate that it can distinguish (resolution) between 2.5
and 2.6 % methane. The displayed analysis of the sample indicates 4.1 % methane present as it also
detects the hydrogen and carbon monoxide to some extent (see 2.4.1 above). Thus it is precise,
reproducible and has reasonable resolution, it is a very inaccurate determination (being 164%
of the actual value).

Sampling Errors – assuming instruments are correctly maintained and calibrated, other sources of
error are;

• Instrument hysteresis following exposure to higher than normal concentrations.

• Non-representative sampling of body being monitored. This can be very significant when
instruments. are, by necessity, fixed to walls or roof where layering or incomplete mixing occurs.
This includes allowing for fluctuations over time due to natural causes, such as barometric
pressure changes. Spot measurements are not usually good indicators of average or
background measurements.

• Human error – warm up time, parallax or inaccurate recording of data.

• The time that is represented by the sample – average versus instantaneous, current versus past
A tube bundle sample takes time to get up the tube to the surface and the sample is only
analysed once a cycle.

A general comparison of monitoring methods is provided in Table 2.1. This demonstrates that no one
method provides a solution to all monitoring requirements. An appropriate combination of methods
and systems is required to meet site requirements.

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Table 2.1 Comparison Of Gas Detection Methods

Gas Detection Method Advantages Disadvantages


Handheld electronic • Direct reading – digital display • Routine calibration required
• Now include multi (up to seven) gas • Possible cross sensitivity, for example some CO
instruments. sensors also react to H2, H2S and higher
• Continuous reading, some with memory hydrocarbons.
and download capabilities • Battery powered
• Can determine layering using extension • Sensor life is not indefinite and therefore a system
tubes of scheduled maintenance is required
• Not suited to low oxygen environment.
Handheld chemical • Easy to use and robust • Variable accuracy best 5 – 10% worst 30 to 40%.
tubes • Tubes for a wide range of gases and • Temperature sensitive, a cooling tube is required
concentrations available. for sampling engine exhaust gases directly.
• Do not require calibration or batteries • Possible cross sensitivity, for example CO tubes
may be sensitive to hydrocarbons requiring a
carbon pre filter tube to be used in series.
• They are not continuous reading instruments nor
do they provide alarm function.
Surface Infra red • Accurate and relatively stable • Cannot be used for H2 H2S or ethylene
• Easy to maintain and calibrate • Expensive single units – no contingency if unit
• No need for intrinsic safety fails
• Simple to expand • May have cross sensitivity issue – N2O and CO
Surface gas • Provide a complete analysis without • They are very sophisticated instruments not
chromatograph cross sensitivity. suitable for portable underground use.
• Measures hydrogen and higher • Require regular calibration and expert
hydrocarbons (ethylene). maintenance.
• Wide range of sensitivity from a few • Relatively low speed of analysis (older models up
ppm to 100 %. to 30 minutes).
• May be difficult to discriminate between molecules
of similar transit time eg CO2 and C2H4
• High concentrations can obscure traces of trailing
gases
• Poisoning of detectors by water and H2S.
Telemetric • Fast response • High maintenance and calibration costs of
• Sensor failure detected and reported underground sensors.
• Can be expanded to use other types of • Issues of operation at > 1.25% CH4
sensors. • Integrity after and explosion or fire
• Not suitable for sealed areas.
• Limited number of sensors available
Tube bundle • Samples general body or sealed area • Slow response to underground changes
• No underground power • Blockage and maintenance of tubes
• All instrumentation on surface • Slow leaks not apparent
• Miss short duration peaks
• Integrity after and explosion or fire
• The lag between a underground gas being
sampled and being analysed

Further it is worth comparing how the various systems would report the analysis of a complex mixture
of gases. Table 2.2 compares sensors, tube bundle and gas chromatography.

Table 2.2 Comparison Of Gas Analysis Methods

Gas Actual Telemetric Tube bundle Gas


concentration system Chromatograph
H20 5% Not detected Not detected Not detected
H2 1% Not detected Not detected 1.05
O2 15 % 15.0 15.8 15.8
N2 70.5 % Not detected Not detected 74.2
CO 1% 1.0 1.05 1.05
CO2 5% Not detected 5.25 5.25
CH4 2% 3.63 2.1 2.1
C2H6 0.5 % Not detected Not detected 0.53

Note that both the tube bundle system and the gas chromatograph report gas analysis on a dry basis.
The methane telemetric sensor is a pellistor and thus responds to other gases.

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3.0 INTERPRETATION OF DATA AND REPORTING


Data collated from gas monitoring systems (discrete samples, real time or delayed tube bundle) may
be used for the following purposes;

1. Detection of immediately hazardous situations due to active fire, toxicity, explosibility or


spontaneous combustion potential of the underground mine atmosphere.

It is the nature of mine fires and spontaneous combustion risk that detecting events at an early
stage requires a high degree of vigilance when long periods may pass without any signs being
observed. Of course it is hoped that an event will never take place, but management systems
should be developed to maintain a routine positive acknowledgement of prevailing conditions.

Detection of a potentially hazardous situation due to changes in concentration or ventilation or


rates of change of concentration of gases

This could include unwanted variations in ventilation or unwanted effects of ventilation changes

2. Demonstrate compliance with statutory requirements for monitoring and determination of gas
concentrations in the mine’s workings.

3. Quantification of the adequacy of the mine’s ventilation system to manage contaminant loads
due to normal day to day operation.

4. Reconciliation of the actual range of gas emission rates due to equipment, explosives or seam
gas with predictive models.

5. Establish or “fine tune” predictive models to predict future ventilation requirements resulting
from a change in mine equipment, production rate, gas reservoir characteristics or geometry.

The type, sophistication, intensity and extent of monitoring systems must be tailored to individual site
requirements and of course will be significantly different for coal or metalliferous mines. Specific coal
mine requirements are detailed in Coal Mine Hazards, module 5.0 and Spontaneous Combustion
Of Coal, module 5.3, however, the following issues apply to all situations.

A balance between sufficient and excessive collection and analysis of data should be sought in order
to aid the decision making process. That is, identify data that is crucial to detecting immediately
hazardous situations from data that is collected to support analysis or general performance
monitoring.

Statutory requirements –

• Limiting gas concentrations, either TLV-TWA for toxic gases or percent concentration for
explosive gases.

• Frequency of sampling. This varies from four hourly inspections (handheld instruments) of work
places in coal mines to monthly surveys in metalliferous mines.
3
• In addition there may also be a minimum ventilation requirement either velocity based (m /s per
2 3 3
m cross sectional area) or equipment based m /s per development miner or m /s per kW diesel
power.

• Statutory requirements should always be considered a minimum standard that may not always
provide acceptable levels of monitoring. In particular, discrete sampling on a monthly basis or
some documentary requirements for surveys may be totally inadequate to meet the intent of gas
monitoring systems.

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Alarm and action response trigger levels –

• Alarm levels must be set and documented for sensors designed to monitor immediately
hazardous situations. It is normal for high and low alarm levels to be set to provide some
warning to site management For example, an appropriate low level methane alarm may be 1.0
% if power is to be turned off at 1.25 %. The alarm values should be determined by the
operating conditions of the mine in conjunction with statutory requirements and not based
simply on industry standards or textbook values.

• Acknowledgement of, and resetting, alarms should only be carried out by specified persons
under a written procedure. This will prescribe what actions are to be taken and who is to be
informed.

• Lower level alarms or action triggers may be set for preventative action or remedial action to
prevent hazards from occurring. These may be intended for specific individuals such as the
ventilation officer and may only require further investigation. Alarms may mandate pit
evacuation.

• Specific types of alarms will be dealt with in more detail in the sections on mine fires, explosions
and spontaneous combustion.

• There must be back up actions should an alarm not be acknowledged and acted upon within a
reasonable (specified) time. Computer systems have sophisticated capabilities that can be
utilised to ensure that no alarm goes unnoticed or responded to.

• There can be different levels of alarms so that urgent and important alarms are recognised.
given priority and actioned first. Treating all alarms with the same priority risks submerging life
threatening alarms such as fire indicators amongst pump failures, belt trips and electrical
problems.

• Mine environment monitoring systems should collect information from all mine environment
monitors as well as the operational status of those pieces of equipment that influence the mine
environment including: mine fans, barometric pressure, ventilation quantity, velocity and
differential pressure sensors, smoke detectors, and ventilation control devices.

Examples of this are:


• an alarm not be acknowledged within a preset time, then the monitoring computer can
activate a call out procedure using auto diallers and email systems. Reporting of alarms
can automatically go to pagers, PEDs and mobile phones.
• if an alarm is not acknowledged within 30 seconds external sirens sound and lights start
flashing
• if an alarm is not acknowledged within 30 seconds, the alarm is reported to the shift
supervisor computer, mine manager
• if an fire alarm is triggered, and not acknowledged within a pre set time, mine evacuation
can be automatically triggered, releasing stench gas or triggering other suitable
mechanisms.

Identification of standards and key performance indicators

• In addition to simply complying with statutory requirements it is useful to develop site standards
and key performance indicators to monitor performance, change and improvement. For
example, carbon monoxide makes l/min, longwall gas emission with production (specific gas
3
emission m /t) re entry times after long hole stope firing or maximum NOx as a percent of TLV-
TWA.

• This will require integration with other data sources such as ventilation surveys and production
statistics.

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Historical trends and predictive models

• In addition to reporting current values, monitoring systems should be able to trend and report
(graphically) recent trends over hours, shifts or days. This is most important for monitoring a
developing situation with respect to recently prevailing conditions. Due to the dynamic nature of
data, it is often only with hindsight that the start of an event may be detected.

• Many theoretical models are available for predicting gas emission and movement within mine
ventilation circuits, but almost without exception, they are approximations based on numerous
assumptions and limitations. Long term trending of historical data to establish the mine “norm” is
essential for detecting problems and predicting future requirements.

Reporting and archiving data

• An important aspect of monitoring is reporting of current values and longer term trends, at an
appropriate level, to management, other mining departments and the workforce. This is often
best served by providing a weekly summary of data and interpretation of analysis for production
reports. In coal mines subject to high gas emission rate and or risk of spontaneous combustion,
summary reports can be produced on a shift basis.

Responsibility for system(s) maintenance

• Standards, procedures and direct management responsibility for maintaining monitoring


systems should be established and identified.

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4.0 CALIBRATION AND MAINTENANCE

The fundamental principles of gas detection equipment maintenance are outlined in Australian
Standard AS2290.3 1990 Electrical Equipment for coal mines – Maintenance and overhaul. Part 3:
Maintenance of gas detecting and monitoring equipment.

This standard details all the requirements regarding calibration processes and the need to obtain
certified calibration gases, document procedures and maintain calibration and maintenance records.

Calibration frequency will be specified in the instruments specification or approval documentation and
in the relevant Australian Standard (AS2290.3 Part 3). This is a particularly onerous task with multiple
underground gas sensors and is one of the main disadvantages of such systems.

4.1 Definitions
Zero gas – a gas sample that replicates the mine atmosphere as close as practical, that contains
none of the gas that the analyser/detector monitors. This is used for establishing the baseline. Fresh
dry air is a suitable zero gas for most detectors other than oxygen and nitrogen.

Span gas – this is a gas sample that contains an accurately determined concentration of the gas of
interest , with the bulk of the gas being made up by fresh air if possible. This may not be possible if
fresh air interferes with the calibration gas (such as NO, which converts to NO2 on standing in air) or
oxygen or nitrogen are being calibrated. Clearly it is not possible to calibrate flammable gas sensors
within the flammable range using mixtures of flammable gas in air, as these gas supplies would be
potentially explosive and cannot be supplied or transported.

4.2 Calibration
Instruments will require calibration for zero and span over the ranges available eg high and low. Due
to possible non linearity of sensor response, most accurate readings can be obtained using span
gases over the expected concentration range in the atmosphere being measured

Calibration can be carried out at different levels of rigour. A full calibration requires tests to be carried
out to ensure that a measuring device is accurate across all ranges that it offers. This mandates a
minimum of zero gas, and three calibration points per range to be calibrated.

Checks of calibration can be carried out using zero gas and a single suitable value span gas. This is
also called a challenge test. Usually the analyser/detector is assessed as being adequate if it
measures the gas concentration within the required tolerance. No adjustment is made if it fails the
challenge test, rather it is returned to the maintenance area for repair or recalibration.

It is important to establish proper quality control over calibration and maintenance procedures,
including records of calibration.

Table 4.1 below outlines the different types of detection equipment and the minimum calibration
frequency recommended in AS 2290.3 Part 3.

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Table 4.1 Calibration Requirements (based on AS2290.3 part 3)

Class Description Examination Frequency Ref AS2290


clause
Ia Hand held Shift Shift 2.2.1.1
Weekly Weekly 2.2.1.2
Authority 6 monthly 2.2.1.3
Ib Hand held with Shift Shift 2.2.2.1
alarms Weekly Weekly 2.2.2.2
Authority 6 monthly 2.2.2.3
II Machine Shift Shift 2.3.1
mounted Zero Weekly 2.3.2
Calibration Weekly 2.3.3
Alarm Weekly 2.3.4
Switching Weekly 2.3.5
Authority 6 Monthly 2.3.6
Overhaul 4 yearly 2.3.7
III Underground Status Daily 2.4.1
fixed System Monthly 2.4.2
Relocation Upon 2.4.3
Switching relocation/modification 2.4.4
Authority Yearly 2.4.5
Iva Surface fixed – Status Daily 2.5.1.1
sensors System Monthly 2.5.1.2
Authority Yearly 2.5.1.3
IVb, IVc Surface fixed – Status Daily 2.5.2.1
tube bundle or System Monthly 2.5.2.2.
hybrid Line integrity Monthly 2.5.2.3
Authority Yearly 2.5.2.4

In Table 4.1 Authority means a calibration undertaken by an accredited testing authority. An


accredited testing authority should also carry out overhauls. Other examinations may be carried out
on site.

The line integrity check entails the introduction of a test gas at the normal entry point of sampled gas
into the system, to ensure that the measurement falls within acceptable limits.

Whilst not specified in the standard during the line integrity check the time taken for the sample to
reach the surface analyser should also be noted. Any variation will indicate potential leakage or
change in the operation of the system due to pump factors.

The standard goes on to specify what is acceptable percent relative error (deviation/accuracy) for gas
detection equipment (%RE) as :

% RE = 10 - % FS
20
Where %FS is the percentage of full scale concentration.

The maximum calibration error (ME) is then defined as:

ME = TC %RE
100
Where TC is the true gas concentration.

The exception is the oxygen detectors which must be +/- 0.2 % oxygen over the range 21 to 15 %
oxygen.

Examples of calibration, examination and defect record sheets are also given in the standard.

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Worked Example – Sampling Accuracy

A methanometer operates 0 to 5%. It is to be checked against a calibration gas 2.23 % methane. What is
the accuracy required to pass this examination? The methanometer reads to 0.1 %

% FS = 2.23 / 5 x 100 = 44.6

Therefore % RE = 10 – 44.6 / 20 = 7.8

Therefore ME = 2.23 x 7.8 / 100 = 0.17

Thus for the working limits of this analyser the reading should be 2.2 +/- 0.2 %

4.3 Maintenance

Maintenance of gas detection equipment includes :

• Inspection of external appearance to monitor for damage or ingress of dust or moisture

• Cleaning of external body, removal of dust and moisture without damaging detector

• Emptying/cleaning of dust filters and water traps, replacing as necessary.

• Checking of gas lines for leaks or damage, this may be achieved through monitoring pressure in
line or pressure drop in line and observing any change.

• Checking to ensure that device is within current calibration validity period

• Scheduling of regular calibration.

• Organising prompt repair of faulty equipment and replacement in the mine.

When considering installation of underground sensors, or the number and type of handheld
instruments to be used, it is critical that sufficient resources (budgetary, space and personnel) are
available to maintain the system. Unfortunately, this part of gas monitoring is sometimes
underestimated resulting in unreliable systems, frequent false alarms and reporting of data that is
assumed to be incorrect. It is preferred to have fewer but very reliable monitoring points rather than a
system with many unreliable points.

Maintenance procedures must be developed that specify the actions to be undertaken, who by and
how often. Maintenance systems must be developed that ensure that there are adequately trained
personnel on site to carry out maintenance and calibration, and that there are sufficient resources,
both spare parts and consumables such as span gases to enable effective maintenance to be carried
out. The maintenance system must also document these procedures and record the calibration and
repair of all equipment as per the Australian Standard AS2290.3.

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5.0 INSTALLATION AND OPERATION


This section deals with issues arising from the installation and operation of gas monitoring systems.
By the nature of systems required and distinct differences between metalliferous and coal mine
requirements, this section focuses on coal mine systems. However, many of the issues raised may be
equally pertinent when considering, perhaps less sophisticated, requirements in metalliferous mines.

5.1 Gas Monitoring System Design


When designing a gas detection system it is imperative that the purposes of the system are clearly
identified and appropriate detector types and locations then identified.

The NSW and Queensland Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulations specify minimum monitoring
requirements in terms of locations. For example: Part 7 of the Qld regulations details the minimum
requirements for the gas monitoring system to monitor for methane, carbon monoxide and oxygen in:

• The return airway of each ventilation split


• The return airway from each unsealed waste, idle workings and goaf area
• Each return airway at an upcast fan
• The return end of each conveyor belt roadway
• Other places stated in the mine’s principal hazard management plan.

This is in addition to requirements for:

• Gas detection located on individual pieces of equipment

− auxiliary fans
− main exhausting fan
− coal cutters, continuous miners, road heading machines
− longwall shearer
− mobile bolting machine
− explosion protected electrically powered loader
− explosion protected LHD vehicle either battery or internal combustion powered
− other explosion protected vehicles powered by battery or internal combustion
− other explosion protected electrical plant
− non explosion protected vehicle

• Fixed methane detectors;

− intake airways
− main return airway
− return airway in ventilation split
− Longwall face

• Personal gas monitors


− methane, carbon monoxide and oxygen

The regulations also specify that the gas monitoring system must provide for:

− continual monitoring of these gases


− automatic detecting or calculating the values and trends of gas concentration
− Graham’s ratio
− ratio of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide
− gas explosibility
− automatically activating an alarm if a gas alarm level is exceeded
− recording, keeping and displaying values and trends listed above
− alternative power supply

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An integral part of the reporting and alarming capability of any mine gas monitoring system is the
ability of the system to report on its own status. This includes the functionality of each component:

• the status of all the sensors and analysers


• the status of the data acquisition and reporting computers,
• the status of the PLCs
• the status of any communications links
• the status of any alarms – acknowledgement and required actions

Part 8 of the NSW Coal Mines (Underground) Regulation 1999 deals with monitoring and detecting
equipment and is very similar to the Queensland regulation.

The key criteria are:

• the required response time of the detector (fast for fire)


• the gas(es) to be detected
• the range of concentrations the detector requires
• operational constraints
• maintenance (eg: no. of sensors vs cost of maintenance)
• location (eg: access)
• hazards (do the sensors need to be intrinsically safe?)
• what are the alternatives? (tube bundle vs sensor)

In metalliferous mine regulations the monitoring of gases is not mentioned in such detail however it is
included in the sections on managing risk from exposure to hazards. The only gas explicitly
mentioned in the Queensland Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulations is oxygen. In this
instance: the atmosphere of a confined space on the surface of a mine must contain more that 19.5 %
and less than 23.5 % oxygen. Any other part of the mine must have at least 18 % oxygen where
people are likely to go.

The purpose of the monitor should be established (ventilation quality, fire detection, leakage,
legislative compliance, toxicity). In conjunction with the ventilation and operating conditions of the mine
will determine the location of the monitor.

The monitor must be sited so as to be able to carry out the desired function within the desired time.
For example: Mine regulations have long required a CO detector at the fan. This is to detect fires. As
will be demonstrated in the following sections, it is questionable that this sensor would ever detect a
fire early enough to permit controls to be executed. This is due to the large volume of air being drawn
through the fan rendering the sensor insensitive to the generation of small volumes of CO associated
with the development of fires.

Conveyor belt fires can develop very quickly especially at transfer points and loop take ups. Thus the
mechanism for detection must be capable of quick response and be monitored continuously for
change. As such tube bundle monitoring systems are not suitable for this use.

Electrochemical sensors require oxygen to operate effectively. Thus it is not appropriate to use CO
sensors in goafs of coal mines which are oxygen deficient.

The range (sensitivity) of the detector must also be determined. Detectors that are sensitive to small
changes in concentration are seldom able to track wide variation in concentration. Thus CO sensors
on conveyor belts can pick up a 1 ppm increase in concentration but when confronted with 3000 ppm
of CO often merely report it at the full scale value of the sensor which may be as low as 10 ppm. This
would hamper emergency response to a fire as there would be no accurate picture of the mine gas
atmosphere other than it exceeded 10 ppm CO.

As mentioned previously one of the prime limitations of tube bundle systems is the time taken for gas
samples to be pumped from the sample location to the surface and then analysed in rotation. Care
must be taken that the times are not excessive and compromise the ability to respond appropriately.
Long tubes should be avoided where possible as they will operate significantly below atmospheric

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pressure which increases the likelihood of leakage and have long lag times. The time taken to travel
through a tube is proportional to the square distance. Consideration should be given to using larger
diameter tubing to reduce lag times.

Another concern with tube bundle systems is the sample cycle time through the analysers. Only one
sample can be analysed at a time, and the sampling cycle includes purge previous sample, refill the
sample manifold and wait for analysers to stabilise and reach full scale. Often the rate determining
step is the volume of gas that has to be purged and refilled before a stable reading can be obtained.
This volume can be surprisingly large, with water traps, and up to four analysers in series. This can
be exacerbated by the use of small pumps to draw the gas through the analysers.

For example: In the past it was not uncommon to find the water trap volume was 500 mls, add to this
the sample cell volumes of the analysers, especially the CO analyser, this can make a sample loop
volume of over a litre. With a sample pump only pumping a litre a minute, this means the purge time
would exceed three minutes (three volumes), before allowing for the response time of the analysers.
This can be minimised by running the analysers in parallel rather than series, and selecting a more
appropriate water trap size. Inadequate purge times mean that the analysis will occur on a sample
containing some proportion of the previous sample, which can cause exaggeration or underestimation
of the gas concentration depending on what the preceding sample was.

Analyser response time is determined by the length of time selected to average out the random noise
to get a sufficiently stable signal and the purging of the sample cell to get up to full concentration. This
time can be over 90 seconds and the manufacturers specifications should be consulted to ensure that
this is allowed for in the monitoring system. Problems in the past have occurred when analysers have
not reached equilibrium before the central computer reads the concentration of the gas. This is
particularly true where the analyser has multiple ranges and needs to switch range, in this case
additional time needs to be allowed to let the second range stabilise before a reading is taken.

A common action is to sample surface air as part of the tube bundle cycle. This allows immediate
checking of the part of the operation of the analysers (zero on most and 20.9% on the oxygen) and
the adequacy of the purge times (especially if significantly non fresh air is in the previous sample).

Consideration should be given to locating groups of sensors together, including ventilation quantity
sensors. This enables the focus to be on gas makes rather than concentrations and takes out the
fluctuations in gas concentration caused by fluctuations in ventilation quantity.

5.2 Examples Of Detector Location


Example 1:

A CO sensor being used to detect the onset of a fire on a conveyor belt should be located just
downwind of potential ignition points, such as drive heads, not upwind. It should be located such that
it will detect any increase in CO due to the onset of a fire at this point and not be shielded by
structures or out of the air flow.

Example 2:

A sample tube has been placed into the goaf of a coal mine, the objective is to monitor for the onset of
a heating. As heating gases tend to be buoyant, the tube should be located near the roof of the area
and where possible, sufficiently far through the seal to minimise effects due to the seal breathing or
sucking. The tube should be protected from damage due to roof or rib falls and contain a water trap to
prevent condensation blocking the line. Ideally due to the possibility of damage to the line and the
lack of access to the goaf to repair the line, a second tube should be installed as a back up.

Example 3:

If the objective in example 2 was to monitor the explosibility of the goaf then the location could be
quite different and a piccolo tube may well be used. This is a vertically mounted tube that has holes
along its length to allow a sample of gas representative of the vertical extent of the area to be
collected. Clearly care must be taken to avoid monitors being damaged.

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6.0 REFERENCES

6.1 References Underpinning This Module


Cliff D et al 1998 “Mine Fires In Australian Underground Coal Mines”
Pub Safety In Mines Testing And Research Station (SIMTARS) 1998

Cliff D et al 1996 “Spontaneous Combustion In Australian Coal Mines”


Pub Safety In Mines Testing And Research Station (SIMTARS) 1996

Le Roux W.L. 1990 “Le Roux’s Notes On Mine Environmental Control - Ch.2 Gases”
Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa

6.2 References Contained In The Course Notes


Lang, M. , 1996 “Gas Monitoring: Selecting The Monitoring System Best For Your Mine” Queensland
Mining Industry Health And Safety Conference, Yeppoon

Pomroy, W.H. and Laage, L.W. , 1988 “Real Time Monitoring And Simulation Analysis Of Mine
Atmospheres To Locate And Characterise Underground Mine Fires” 4th International Mine Ventilation
Congress, Brisbane

6.3 Further References


AS2290.3 1990 “Electrical Equipment for coal mines – Maintenance and overhaul. Part 3:
Maintenance of gas detecting and monitoring equipment.” Standards Association of Australia

Bird M et al 1998 “Emergency Preparedness and Mines Rescue” Mines Rescue Board of NSW 1998.

Cliff D et al 1999 “Interpretation Of Mine Atmospheres – Particularly For Spontaneous Combustion


Mine Fires And Explosions” Pub Safety In Mines Testing And Research Station (SIMTARS) 1999

DMR-MDG1006 “Spontaneous Combustion Management Code Rev 3.3”


NSW Dept. Mineral Resources Coal Mining Inspectorate And Engineering Branch, 1996

Greig J.D. “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines – Ch 26 Gases Encountered in Mines”
Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa 1982.

SAA/SNZ HB86.1 1996 “Handbook – A guide to the selection, care, calibration and checking of
measuring instruments in industry” Part 1: General Principles” Standards Association of
Australia/Standards New Zealand

Strang J. And Mackenzie-Wood P. “A Manual On Mines Rescue, Safety And Gas Detection”
CSM Press NSW Australia 1990

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SCHOOL OF MINING ENGINEERING
UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Australia

Underground Mine Environment Course


MODULE 2.0 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINANTS

2.3 AIRBORNE AND EXPLOSIBLE DUST

A Minerals Tertiary Education Council Initiative


MINERALS
COUNCIL
Of Australia

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Revision date December 2003
School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

Contents Page

1.0 INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………………… 3

2.0 PROPERTIES AND BEHAVIOUR OF DUST…………………………………………………… 4

3.0 HAZARDS ASSOICATED WITH DUSTS…………………………………………………..…… 8

3.1 Physiological Hazards…………………………………………………………….…………… 8


3.1.1 Lung Diseases………………………………………………………………..……………10

4.0 MEASURING DUST CONCENTRATIONS……………………………………………………… 12

4.1 Sampling Strategy……………………………………………………………………………… 14

5.0 SOURCES OF DUST……………………………………………………………………………… 15

6.0 CONTROL OF AIRBORNE DUST AND EXPOSURES………………………………..……… 16

6.1 Removal Of Personnel………………………………………………………………………… 16


6.2 Personal Protective Equipment…………………………………………………………………16
6.3 Dust Suppression With Water………………………………………………………………… 17
6.4 Dilution, Capture And Transport Of Airborne Dust…………………………………………. 18
6.5 Removal Of Airborne Dust……………………………………………………………………. 19
6.5.1 Settling Chambers……………………………………………………………………….. 20
6.5.2 Water Sprays……………………………………………………………………………… 20
6.5.3 Wet Scrubbers…………………………………………………………….……………… 21
6.5.4 Dry Fabric Filters……………………………………………………………….………… 22
6.5.5 Cyclones………………………………………………………………………………….. 22
6.5.6 Electrostatic Precipitators…………………………………………………………………23
6.5.7 Diesel Particulate Controls……………………………………………………………… 23
6.6 Selection Factors To Consider…………………………………………………………………23

7.0 EXPLOSIBLE DUSTS……………………………………………………..……………………… 24

7.1 Effects Of Dust Explosions………………………………………………………….………… 24


7.2 Coal Mine Dust Explosions………………………………………………………….………… 25
7.2.1 Controls…………………………………………………………………………………… 27
7.3 Sulphide Dust Explosions……………………………………………………………………… 30

8.0 REFERENCES……………………………………………………………………………………… 31

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

1.0 INTRODUCTION
Nearly all mining methods used to break or crush rock or coal, other than perhaps hydro-mining,
produce large quantities of dust. The composition of dust produced will be based on the strata being
broken with a fairly wide range of particle size from typically < 0.1µm to 100 + µm.

Depending on density and particle size, most larger particles will rapidly settle out of the air stream,
covering adjacent surfaces. Smaller particles (< 10µm) with settling velocities of around 1.5 mm/s,
remain airborne and may be inhaled by workers.

Several hazards may then arise depending on the chemical and or physical properties of the dust
present. These range from immediate toxicity to long term cumulative physiological effects on workers
or, in the case of coal and sulphide dusts, an explosion hazard. Some dusts, such as diesel exhaust
particulate matter have been linked with cancer. Asbestos, a particular fibrous crystalline form of silica
is another special dust. The damage that a dust explosion can cause has all too often been
demonstrated for example the Westray Colliery explosion in Canada.

Historically, the underground mining industry world wide has an unfortunate record with respect to the
incidence of lung disease in it’s workforce. Black lung up until the early 1960’s, was the terror of the
coal industry all over the world. Over the last 80 years or so considerable advances in technology and
improved understanding of long term physiological effects have occurred. A major turning point was
the International Pneumoconiosis Conference held in Johannesburg in 1959. At this conference it was
established that respirable dust with particle sizes less than 5 µm were significant to health effects and
that the mass concentration was more relevant than the number of particles present.

Respirable dust concentrations must now be kept at or below prescribed threshold values and routine
monitoring of work force exposure is required. The fundamental objective is that occupational lung
disease (pneumoconiosis) no longer occurs in the mining workforce.

However, the dynamic nature of mining processes and variety of materials being handled means that
acceptable control of dust levels can be both problematic and expensive. It is important therefore that
dust management requirements are correctly quantified and appropriate controls put in place.
Invariably the preferred option is source control, isolation or suppression, but other means of dust
removal also need to be considered when dust becomes airborne.

These module notes summarise key aspects of dust and calculation methods to a standard required
for this course. In this respect, they are not exhaustive and should only be used for guidance. It is
essential that candidates read and understand underpinning references for this module. Further
references are provided for candidates requiring more detailed information. For example detailed
discussion of the occupational health aspects are covered in detail in Keeping Coal Miners Healthy at
Work handbook developed by the Joint Coal Board.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

2.0 PROPERTIES AND BEHAVIOUR OF DUST


Schroder, 1982 defines dust as; “Dust, which forms from the mechanical disintegration of matter can
be defined as a collection of solid particles which; are dispersed in a gaseous medium (in mines the
gaseous medium is air) are able to remain suspended in the gaseous medium for a relatively long
time, and have a high surface area to volume ratio.”

The following terms and properties are commonly used to describe or characterise dusts.

Concentration - the amount of dust present in an atmosphere is quantified by the mass concentration
3 3
(mg/m ) or particle concentration (p/m ). For asbestos, as number of fibres per ml.

Particle size - the size (µm) and shape of dust particles varies considerably with composition and
mode of formation. As the behaviour of dust in air is important, these variations are normalised by
considering an equivalent diameter of the dust particles. Very few particles are spheres and thus their
“size” will depend on how it is measured.

Equivalent diameter – the geometric diameter is the diameter of a sphere having the same projected
area as the dust particle

the Stokes diameter is the diameter of a sphere that has the same density and
terminal settling velocity as the dust particle

the aerodynamic diameter is the diameter of a unit density sphere that has the
same settling velocity as the dust particle.

When the particle is a liquid droplet it is assumed to be perfectly spherical. Smaller particles also have
a larger surface area to volume ratio making them more chemically reactive which effects
physiological response.

Figure 2.1 Size Distribution Of Dusts

Size distribution – together with size fraction


100 35
describes how much of each dust particle size
is present. For example, the sample in Figure 90
30
2.1 has 100% < 9.0 µm and 50 % < 5 µm. and 80 Cumulative % Less Than
10% < 1 µm. 70 25
Size Fraction %

60 20
The concentration of airborne contaminants 50
have been found to be log normally distributed 15
40
and will depend on the mode of formation eg
grinding (smaller), crushing (larger) or 30 10
blasting. Industrial and mine dusts 20
characteristically have a mean particle size in 5
10
the range 0.5 to 3.0 µm. 0 0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Size Fraction um

Figure 2.2 depicts the typical particle size distribution found underground and the likely sources of the
dusts including diesel particulate matter.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

Figure 2.2 Typical Particle Size Distribution In Underground Mines (Cantrell and Watts, 1997)

Hot vapor Low-volatility vapor Mineral fracture


Homogenous aerosol
Coagulation nucleation +
Comminution
Primary aerosol
Condensation
particles growth on nuclei +
Re entrained dust
Coagulation +
Droplets Rock dust
Chain
aggregates
Coagulation

Coagulation

0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100


Aerodynamic Particle diameter µm
Transient nuclei range Accumulation range Mechanically generated aerosol range

Fine particles Coarse particles

Sizing – the method of determining the size of the particles, this can vary from sieving which
determines the smallest dimension of the dust, through optical methods that determine an average
equivalent diameter, to those methods that use centrifugal classification based on density to surface
area ratios.

Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) - this is the soot formed from the incomplete combustion of diesel
fuel. These particles are essentially carbon and are < 1µm in diameter. They potentially pose a
hazard due to the chemicals that can be absorbed onto the surface of the carbon. Some of these
chemicals have been linked with cancer. Very little mechanically formed dust is less than 1 µm in
diameter.

Respirable Fraction – size range of dust particles that enter the lung and may be deposited, typically
0.02 µm to 7.0 µm. Larger particles are trapped or deposited in nasal passages or upper respiratory
tract and most mine dusts do not contain many particles smaller than 0.02 µm. A very high proportion
of dusts less than 0.5 µm are deposited in the lungs. It is also the case that airborne particulates are
only visible above about 10 µm, consequently the respirable fraction is not visible with the naked eye.
More detail on the actual definition can be obtained from AS 2985-1987. There are two slightly
different definitions BMRC and IEC.

Inspirable Fraction – size range of dust particles that enter the mouth or nose but get trapped in the
upper respiratory tract, typically up to 100 µm in diameter. These dusts pose a hazard from the
chemicals that they contain, for example metals such as mercury, cadmium or arsenic. Formal
definitions can be found with the ACGIH, ISO-7708 and AS3640-1989.

Thoracic Fraction - those particles that are hazardous when deposited anywhere in or near the
lungs, but not small enough to travel into the gas exchange region of the lungs.

Silica - This is a family of chemicals formed from silicon and oxygen. Only some forms are
hazardous. Asbestos is a fibrous form of silica and quartz is a crystalline form. Silicosis is the disease
caused by some crystalline forms of silica. Asbestosis is caused by asbestos.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

Hybrid atmospheres – This term refers to potentially explosive atmospheres that are formed by
combination of dusts and gas at concentrations less than would be explosive if only gas or dust was
3
present. For example an atmosphere of 10 g/m coal dust and 1% CH4 can be detonated for a volatile
coal.

Settling Velocity And Particle Movement – the movement of particles in air depends on their size
and density. Larger particles fall under the effect of gravity, described by Stokes Law, but smaller dust
particles behave in a different manner as they become effected by air molecules, spaces between
molecules and other airborne particles.

The terminal settling velocity at which larger (>> 1.0 µm ) dust particles fall through air is the net effect
of gravitational acceleration and drag due to surface friction against air. This is described by Stokes
Law relating particle diameter, density of material and air together with air viscosity.

Equation 2.1 Stokes Law

Terminal velocity Ut = d2.g.(ρd - ρa) m/s


18.µ100

When dust particle diameters are below about 1 µm, they are approaching the mean distance between
air molecules. Consequently, the effective drag of air reduces and settling velocities are actually
higher than that predicted by Stokes Law due to this slippage past molecules. This effect is corrected
for by using Cunningham’s slip correction factor.

Equation 2.2 Cunningham’s Slip Correction Factor

Terminal velocity Utc = Ut (1 +2.A λ) m/s


d
Where Utc = corrected terminal settling velocity, m/s
A = a constant of 0.7 to 0.9
λ = mean free path of air molecules = 6.53 x 10-8 m

Using equations 2.1 and 2.2, the setting velocity and time to fall 1.0 m for coal and quartz particles are
shown in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.3 Settling Velocity Of Coal And Quartz Dusts With Particle Size

1E+00 1400

1E-01 1200
Time To Fall 1.0 m Mins
Settling Velocity m/s

Fall Quartz
1E-02 1000
Time
1E-03 Coal 800

1E-04 600

1E-05 400

1E-06 200

1E-07 0
0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Particle Diameter um

This demonstrates that dust particles below 1.0 or 2.0 µm diameter can be considered to be
permanently airborne as they will not settle out in times less than 5 to 10 hours.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

An additional factor effecting movement of smaller particles is Brownian motion caused by impact with
air molecules. The resultant displacement of dust particles is random and will therefore further reduce
the net vertical settling velocity. Slip corrected settling velocities are of a similar order of magnitude to
that caused by Brownian motion at about 0.3 µm diameter. For smaller particles, Brownian motion will
be many orders of magnitude greater than settling velocity.

Electrostatic Charges – most dust particles readily become charged during formation, by friction or
contact with other particles or by accumulating naturally occurring ions in the atmosphere. Dusts may
acquire either positive or negative charges depending on the chemical composition of particle and
ambient humidity.

Coagulation Of Dust Particles – as a result of impact and electrostatic charge, dust particles
continuously coalesce. The rate of coagulation depends on particle size - Brownian motion, shape,
concentration and air turbulence. With time, the number of individual particles reduces but their size
increases to the point that they become large enough to settle out.

Impaction And Interception - dust particles will accumulate on airway surfaces or obstructions when
there is a change in direction or disturbance of flow. Impaction occurs when particles have sufficient
inertia for the resultant trajectory to carry them across the flow streamlines to the surface.

Some of these properties are summarised in Figure 2.4.

Figure 2.4 Summary Of Dust Properties And Means Of Removal


(After Walli 1982)
Par ticle s Diffu s e L ik e Gas Par ticle s Se ttle A t T e r m in al V e lo city
M o le cu le s
C u n n in g h am s Sto k e s L aw
Facto r
∆ = RT . 2C t Ut = d2 .g.( ρ d - ρ a)
Ut ’ = U t.(1 + 2 .A.λ )
N 3π µ d d 18. µ
Se ttlin g V e lo city < 0.001 0.0035 0.04 0.75 3.0 0.08 0.3 2.8 4.0 8.9

cm /s m /s
P e rm a ne nt Atm osphe ric Im puritie s Te m pora ry Atm osphe ric Im puritie s

Fum e s Fogs M ist Driz z le Ra in


S m oke s
Dusts He a vy Industria l Dusts
M e a n fre e spa ce
be tw e e n m ole cule s Coa l Dust
P olle ns
Dust Ca using
V iruse s Lung Da m a ge Ba cte ria
V isible a bove 10 um
Ave ra ge Toba cco S m oke

Colle ction M e thods Cyclone S e pa ra tors


Dyna m ic P re cipita tors + S pra ys
Ele ctrica l P re cipita tors
Air Filte rs Atm posphe ric Dust Drop Out Cha m be r

0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000


P a rticle Dia m e te r um

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

3.0 HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH DUSTS


There are three general categories of risk from dusts, those posing a physiological hazard, those that
may form an explosive mixture in air and nuisance dusts. Some dusts fall in to more than one
category, refer Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 A General Classification Of Dusts

Physiological Hazard
Fibrogenic Carcinogenic Toxic Radioactive Explosive Nuisance
Fire Hazard Dusts
Silica Radon daughters Arsenic Uranium Coal Kaolin
Silicates(asbestos Asbestos Lead Radium Sulphide ores Gypsum
Mica) Arsenic Uranium Thorium Limestone
Tin and iron ores DPM Cadmium
Coal Nickel
Silver

3.1 Physiological Hazards


As air is inhaled it passes through nasal or oral passages (naso-pharynx) and into the trachea
(windpipe). This in turn leads to the left and right bronchial tubes which conduct air into the lungs.
These then subdivide into many smaller tubes, bronchioles, which end in small sacs called the alveoli.
It is in these alveoli that exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs to and from the blood stream
through the membrane wall, refer Figure 3.1. It is important to note that, unlike the bodies outside skin
surface, cells forming the 0.55 µm thick membrane wall are live and therefore susceptible to direct
physical or chemical damage.

Figure 3.1 The Human Respiratory System


Larynx
Nasopharynx

Trachea

Larynx
Trachea
Bronchus Bronchus

Bronchioles

Bronchioles Left lung


cross section

Alveolar duct
Diaphragm
Alveoli

Respiratory Tract Number Diameter Size Of Dust


Component mm Passing µm
Trachea 1 14 50 µm trapped in naso pharynx
Bronchus 2 12 10µm
5µm
Bronchioles (1st division) 12 4
Bronchioles (final division) 20 to 80,000 < 0.6 Only particles less than 5 µm
2
Total 75 m surface area penetrate deep into the lungs.
Alveoli 350,000,000

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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Larger particles, in the size range 5 to 10 µm, are trapped by nasal hairs and mucus lining surfaces of
the mouth and throat. These, and some smaller particles, are also trapped in the trachea and
bronchial tubes where hair like cilia sweep a particle laden layer of mucus upwards in a pulsating
motion, sometimes referred to as the “bronchial escalator”. The particles are then either swallowed or
discharged in sputum.

Due to settlement, impaction and interception of dust in the upper respiratory tract, most dust entering
the alveoli are less than 1.0 µm in size. The amount of this dust deposited in the alveoli increases with
decreasing particle size, for example 25% at 0.2 µm and 55% at 0.02 µm (Walli,1982).

The overall distribution of dust deposition with particle size in the respiratory system is shown in Figure
3.2 (Schroder, 1982). For example, about 50 % of inhaled dust with a diameter of 3 µm will be
deposited in the naso pharyngeal region with a further 10 % deposited in the bronchioles. Of the total
inhaled dust in the 3 µm size fraction about 40 % enters the alveoli where half, or 20 % of the total will
be deposited. The remaining 20% is exhaled.

Figure 3.2 Lung Deposition Curves And Example For 3 µm Particles

100
100
90
80 % Pe cen O Dus en e ng Lung 90
80
80
% Inhaled Dust Deposited

70 Naso
To a
70
60 pha yngea
50 %
60
50
50
40 40
T acheo A yeo a
30 30
b onch a
20 20 % 20
10 10 % 10
0 0
0.01 0.10 1.00 10.00 100.00
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Particle Size um
Pa c e S ze um

There are two methods by which dust is cleared from the alveoli. The first is by wandering cells known
as macrophages or phagocytes (10 to 50 µm in diameter) which envelope the dust particle to reduce
local irritation and move it to drainage vessels (lymphatics). Here it is transported to lymph nodes by
body fluids and finally discharged from the body. The second method is by transport to the mucus
layer in the bronchioles by a fluid film.

These entrapment and removal process in the upper and lower respiratory tract are very effective in
managing inhaled particulates. About half the dust deposited in the upper respiratory tract will be
removed within 2 hours of exposure with removal from the lower pulmonary air spaces ranging from
days to months. Post-mortem investigations have shown that retained particle matter in lung tissue
may only be about 1.0 % of the total mass inhaled during lifetime exposure.

The effect of gaseous irritants, such as smoking or nitrous fumes, is to both thicken and break up the
mucus layer, significantly reducing it’s effectiveness in addition to exposing some surface of the
trachea and bronchi. This leaves a person open to increased irritation and infection, for example
bronchitis in the short term or emphysema in the longer term. In fact, exposure to dusts and some
irritating gases produces a synergetic effect where by simultaneous exposure to both is many times
more damaging than exposure to each separately. This may occur, for example, with smoking and
diesel exhaust particulates or radon progeny.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

3.1.1 Lung Diseases


The collective name for non fibrogenic or fibrogenic respiratory disease is pneumoconiosis. This can
be defined as “a permanent lesion of the cardio-respiratory organs caused by the inhalation of dust in
the course of the performance of risk work” Schroder, 1982.

Non fibrogenic respiratory disease, or benign pneumoconiosis, occurs when some phagocytes (dust
cells) remain attached to walls of the alveoli and start to accumulate with continued exposure to dust.
This forms a weak network of cells (reticulin fibres) which continue to accumulate dust, however, if
exposure to dust is reduced there is little permanent disability. This may occur in workers exposed to
coal dust containing low levels of silica where silicosis has not developed.

Fibrogenic respiratory disease occurs when dust particles trapped by phagocytes significantly reduce
their life due to the chemical and or physical properties of the dust (quartz and asbestos). In this case
the accumulating network of cells is much stronger (collagen) leading to a build up of scar tissue and
resulting in permanent disabling lung disease. The development of these diseases tends to be dose
related with the shortest period prior to onset of about 3 years but normally 10 to 20 years.

Some forms of these diseases are as follows;

Silicosis - results from the adverse effects of free crystalline silica (SiO2) in the lungs leading
fibrogenic lung disease, sometimes referred to as phthisis. With continued exposure nodules in the
lung increase in size and accumulate to form large masses of damaged lung tissue.

It is important to note that, due to various fracturing modes, the free silica content of airborne dust may
be significantly different (either higher or lower) than that in the rock from which it is formed. It is
therefore important that dust samples are tested separately to quantify this effect.

Asbestosis – results from exposure to various forms of asbestos which is a crystalline silicate with
particularly aggressive physical and chemical impact on cells within the lung. Asbestos dusts comprise
fibres less than 5 µm in diameter and up to 200 µm in length . It is also known that exposure to some
forms of asbestos (crocidolite and chrysotile) can result in malignant mesothelioma (cancer).

Toxic and radiological hazards arise from exposure to various other dusts, for example lead or dust
coated with radon progeny (daughters). Some dusts may be adsorbed through the walls of the lung,
dissolved into the blood or, via the mucus layer in the upper respiratory tract, ingested and therefore
affect other organs of the body.

The threshold limiting values for some mine dusts are shown in Table 3.2. The lead in setting TLV –
TWA is being taken by the National Institute of Occupational Health in the USA. They have
3
recommended a TLV-TWA for respirable coal dust of 0.9 mg/m . This has been reduced from the
previous value due to the continuing diagnosis of coal miners with lung diseases. The Mine Safety
3
and Health Administration in the US has set the permitted TLV-TWA at 2.0 mg/m . This contrasts with
3 3
the UK, where the standard is 2.0 mg/m for surface mines and 3.8 mg/m for underground coal mines.
3
In Australia the value is 3.0 mg/m and there have been no new cases of coal workers
pneumoconiosis reported in Australian coalmine workers for the past ten years (Gillies, 2001). The
sensitivity to pneumoconiosis is thought to be coal rank dependant (NIOSH, 2001). There are also
differences between countries in how this value is to be measured – whole of shift or over the working
part of the shift, and sampling device to be employed.

These TLV’s have been set based on an 8 hour working day, 40 hour working week with 16 hours
between shifts. Values for extended length shifts must be adjusted accordingly (Tiernan and Van
Zanten, 1998). Details of occupational TLV’s can be found on the National Occupational Safety and
Health Commission website : http://www.nohsc.gov.au/OHSInformation/NOHSCPublications.

A Comprehensive overview of all aspects of respirable dust can be found in the US Department of
Health and Human Services – National Institute for Occupational Health document “Criteria for a
Recommended Standard – Occupational Exposure to Respirable Coal Dust”. 1995.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

Table 3.2 TLV-TWA Limits For Some Dusts

Dust Type TLV TWA


3
Quartz respirable 0.15 mg/m (NSW and Qld Coal)
3
0.2 mg/m (NOHSC under review)

Asbestos
- Chrysotile 1.0 fibres /ml > 5 µm long
- Crocidolite/Amosite 0.1 fibres /ml > 5 µm long
3
Coal dust respirable fraction (< 5% quartz) 3.0 mg/m (NSW and Qld)
3
Coal dust respirable fraction (> 5% quartz) 0.15 mg/m (NSW and Qld)
3
Cadmium 0.01 mg/m (NOHSC)
3
Lead 0.15 mg/m (NOHSC)
3
Oil mist (mineral) 5 mg/m (NOHSC)
3
Oil mist (vegetable) 10 mg/m

Nuisance particulates
3
Total dust < 1.0 % quartz 10 mg/m (NOHSC)
Respirable dust < 1.0 % quartz 5 mg/m3 (Qld draft)
3
Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) 0.16 mg/m Total carbon (USA MSHA proposed only)
3
0.2 mg/m (NSWMC recommendation)

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

4.0 MEASURING DUST CONCENTRATIONS


The main difficulty in assessing hazards associated with airborne dusts is that both the mass
concentration and size fraction present need to be considered. In addition, it is the long term
cumulative exposure that influences actual health hazard rather than that due to instantaneous
concentrations.

Most modern instruments indicate the mass concentration of the respirable fraction < 7.0 µm by
passing samples through some means of removing larger particles and also having the removal
characteristics of the lung deposition model shown previously in Figure 3.2. This is achieved in a
variety of ways such as settling chambers, cyclones, elutriators or impactors, refer Figures 4.1 to 4.3.

Gravimetric Methods – air is drawn through a filter at a known rate for a measured period of time.
The change in weight of the filter is therefore the mass of dust contained in the volume of air sampled.
To measure the respirable fraction an elutriator is commonly used to remove particles larger than 7
µm. Alternatively, the sample can be drawn directly through a filter to measure the total dust present.

For example the SMRE 113A sampler passes air at 2.5 l/min through a filter for up to 8 hours, refer
Figure 4.1. These are used for area monitoring and provide the average dust concentration for the
sampling period and cannot therefore discriminate short term highs or lows.

Personal Samplers – use the gravimetric method but size selection is obtained by a small lightweight
cyclone, refer Figure 4.2. The sample pump can be powered by the cap lamp battery and the unit is
placed in and around the body of the worker to monitor dust in inhaled air. The sampling head should
be located within the breathing zone of the individual.

In all gravimetric methods it is important to accurately determine the change in filter weight and actual
volume of air sampled. For example, the change in filter weight due to an increase or decrease in
humidity may be of the same order of magnitude, or greater, than the mass of dust collected. For this
reason unexposed control filters are used. Pump flow rates should be checked at the start and end of
sampling periods to quantify the effect of battery charge or other change in calibration.

Figure 4.1 SMRE 113 A Gravimetric Sampler Figure 4.2 A Personnel Sampler Using
Cyclone For Respirable Size Fraction

Fine dust Outlet


Elutriator particles

Sample
Inlet Screw on
cap
Filter Filter
paper
Motor
Flow
Meter Fine dust
Counter
particles Sample
Pulsation inlet
Damper
Diaphrag
m Pump

Large dust
particles

Sample
inlet

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Worked Example – Gravimetric Sampling Method

A gravimetric sampler draws air through a filter at 2.5 l/min for 6 hours. If the respirable dust
concentration is 1.1 mg/m3 what is the expected change in filter mass ?

Volume sampled = 2.5 x 60 x 6 = 0.9 m3


1000

Expected change in filter mass = 0.9 x 1.1 = 0.99 mg

The mass of a control filter before sampling was 7.342 mg and 7.783 mg at the time of weighing exposed
filters. What would the actual change in mass of the exposed filter be ?

Change in control filter mass = 7.783 – 7.342 = + 0.441 mg due to moisture content or balance calibration.

Change of filter mass = dust + control difference = 0.99 + 0.441 = 1.431 mg

A special gravimetric sampler is used for measuring the diesel particulate matter levels by using a pre
filter to exclude particles > 1 µm from the collection medium.

Photometric Methods – measure the degree to which light is scattered by dust particles (Tyndall
beam effect) to determine the concentration of dust present. Instruments using this method
“Tyndallometers” split a beam of white light, half passes through polarising filters and half through a
chamber containing the dust sample. Both halves of the split beam are then directed to an eye piece
or photo sensors. The angle through which the filters need to be rotated to match the intensity of both
beams is a measure of the dust present.

Other instruments use laser or monochromatic light beams, for example the SIMSLIN, refer Figure 4.3.
All light scattering instruments need to be calibrated for the type of dust present, for example coal and
rock dust scatter light to a different degree. The SIMSLIN also incorporates a filter for average
calibration of the laser readings over the sampling period.

Figure 4.3 SIMSLIN II Dust Sampler

Exhaust

Memory Unit Fine dust particles Elutriator


Sample
Inlet

Monitor detector
Laser
Signal detector Diode

Battery
Scattered Light Filter
focused by lens Pump

Smaller devices, such as the HUND and the MINIRAM (not approved for use in underground coal
mines) rely on measuring the degree of light scattering compared to that absorbed. Unlike the
SIMSLIN these smaller devices do not use an elutriator to pre filter out the non respirable dust
particles. They should be calibrated for the dust of interest when attempting to use them for absolute
measurements of dust concentrations.

Particle Count Methods – in these instruments particles are trapped on slides for later counting
either manually through a microscope or by photoelectric methods or use radio active sources to
charge the particles and counts based on the charge to mass ratio. The oldest instrument of this type

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is the Konimeter but it’s use is now restricted to Southern Africa. The main disadvantage is that the
sample is taken very quickly and therefore is unlikely to reflect the average concentration.

Cascade impactors employ a series of jets and collection plates for separation of the sample into
various size ranges. Separation is based on the aerodynamic properties of the different size dusts.
The velocity of the air stream in each stage is set so that particles greater than a certain size impact
and smaller particles bend around the impactor. Sampling can be undertaken over short periods for
which manual counting of slides is required, or for longer periods when filter weights are used.

A thermal precipitator deposits dust on a slide using repulsion of particles from a heated body over
which the sample is drawn. These instruments have very high collection efficiencies (nearly 100 % up
to 10 µm) and are considered an absolute sampling method. Again slides are counted after sampling
either manually through a microscope or by photoelectric methods.

Quartz Content – determined by X ray diffraction or Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) techniques
using respirable dust samples collected on filters. This will normally be undertaken at an approved
laboratory rather than on site. Note that the quartz fraction of respirable dust can be significantly
different from that in the host strata.

Inspirable dust sampling - This is generally carried out using gravimetric sampling onto a filter either
using the IOM open faced sampler or the UKAEA seven hole sampler. This permits sufficient dust to
be collected for later laboratory chemical analysis.

Asbestos monitoring – Asbestos monitoring requires special gravimetric sampling heads using
soluble filter media suitable for mounting on microscope slides. The slides are then counted manually,
for fibres, using phase contrast optical microscopes and converted to a fibres per ml of gas sampled.

4.1 Sampling Strategy


Minimum dust sampling requirements will be prescribed by regulations and or guidelines applying to
the mine. These differ between coal and metalliferous mines and even between states, however, the
items to consider will be;

Frequency - general mine surveys will be undertaken at a frequency that reflects risk. For example in
mines with a history of low dust concentrations and low quartz content may be surveyed annually.
Mines with variable or high dust concentration, including significant quartz or asbestos, may have to
survey quarterly.

Type of sampling – personal sampling is normally preferred as a means of measuring exposure of


the workforce. Area or spot sampling may also be used to quantify sources of dust and delimit areas
of higher risk in the mine.

Representative Survey Groups – personal sampling will be undertaken with workers grouped by
activity for example, face worker, diesel operator, charging crew etc. Government departments may
undertake check sampling focussing on worst case situations or potentially high exposure
occupations.

Survey Size – to keep the number of samples taken to manageable levels in larger mines, a set
percentage of each work group will be sampled above a minimum number. For example 5 samples or
10 % of the group which ever is the greater. Re sampling may be ordered

Standards – these will include method of analysis (AS 2985), documentation, archiving of records and
communication of results to the workforce, management and Inspectorate. AS3640 governs
inspirable dust sampling.

In NSW the Joint Coal Board has responsibility for sampling respirable dust in coal mines. In
Queensland, each company is responsible for the monitoring and must demonstrate to the
Department of Natural Resources and Mining (DNRM) that they comply with the required standards.

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5.0 SOURCES OF DUST


There are many sources of airborne particulates in underground mines including mineral fragments, oil
aerosols and diesel exhaust emissions.

Mechanised Mining – describes mining process using machines, as opposed to explosives, to break
the strata. These include longwall shearers, continuous miners, road headers, drills, tunnel boring and
raise bore machines.

The amount and size fraction of dust produced by this equipment depends on

• Pick speed, the amount of dust increases with pick speed.


• Pick, cutter or button bit design resulting in a grinding or breaking action.
• Pick maintenance – sharp picks increase tensile failure rather than crushing and reduce dust
production.
• Depth of cut, thrust and torque employed.
• Tensile and compressive strength of strata.
• Cutting stone roof or floor strata may produce 20 times as much dust as for coal alone.

For a given cutter head design, there will be an optimum balance between cutting efficiency, wear
characteristics and dust production. It is however the case that all machines of this type will produce
significant amounts of dust that require means of suppression.

Most continuous mining processes use exhaust auxiliary ventilation systems, with or without dust
extractors, to manage dust created. Forcing systems can be employed provided onboard scrubbers
and sprays are effective in controlling airborne dust concentrations.

Roof Supports – used in coal mines often liberate large amounts of dust when being moved forward,
particularly if contact advance is used for strata control. As these hydraulic supports move in
sequence and follow shearer position they produce a relatively constant source of dust. This is made
worse in mines employing gas drainage where the coal seam and immediate roof strata has been
effectively de watered.

Water infusion is used to raise seam moisture content and workforce exposure may be reduced by
automation of support advance and operating anti tropal ventilation circuits.

Loading/Dumping/Crushing – dust that has settled becomes airborne and new dust particles are
created as ore or coal is loaded, transported by equipment or run through passes and then crushed. In
most situations water sprays are used to keep the material moist together with localised exhaust
ventilation systems to remove dust to return airways or to dust extraction equipment.

In some ore or coal handling systems the use of water must be controlled for operational or safety
reasons. In these situations primary or ducted ventilation systems are required.

Blasting - produces enormous quantities of dust and, as with gases produced by explosives, the
amount of dust produced depends on rock type, type of explosive, drilling pattern and charging
method. Water is invariably used to suppress dust and reduce soluble nitrous fumes trapped in the
rock pile before loading.

Drilling – most routine drilling for ground support and shot firing holes are drilled wet by rotary –
percussive drills with water introduced through the drill string. Larger diameter holes, for example
directionally drilled 90 mm holes for coal mine pre drainage, are also drilled wet but larger diameter
shot firing holes in metalliferous mines may be drilled with compressed air hammers.

Dust is not normally a problem when wet drilling is employed but means of trapping and discharging
dust from dry drilling methods need to be employed. This may be simple location of workers on the
intake side of the drill or use of “stuffing” box with exhaust duct leading to a return airway or dust
extraction unit.

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6.0 CONTROL OF AIRBORNE DUST AND EXPOSURES


In nearly all underground mines, the management of dust is a critical aspect of providing an
acceptable work environment. The magnitude of the problem and appropriate controls to be put in
place will vary with mining method and geological factors. A detailed review and description of dust
control techniques in Australian underground coal mines can be found in Gillies, 2001. The most
commonly used methods in metalliferous or coal mines are as follows;

6.1 Removal Of Personnel Or Isolation From Sources Of Dust


Removing personnel from apparently dusty atmospheres is incorporated in a number of standard
ventilation circuit designs and mining processes, for example

• Exhaust ventilation systems in development headings.


• Anti tropal ventilation on coal mine faces (air flows in opposite direction to coal with supports re
set on intake side of shearer)
• Remote/radio control of mechanised mining equipment and diesel loaders.
• Re entry protocols after blasting.
• Use of air curtains or venturies to direct dust away from operator location
• Enclosing crushers and stage loaders
• Administrative controls such as job rotation

Whilst these methods clearly reduce workers exposure, they cannot be used in all cases and may not
be sufficiently effective in others.

The amount of dust generated can be reduced by:


• Slower cutter speeds
• Only using sharp cutting picks
• Sealing roadways
• Consolidating roadways

A common mechanism for separating the miner from dust generated at the longwall face is to employ
air deflectors to keep the air stream containing the dust close to the face and away from the operators.
This is commonly achieved by using a special water spray system on the shearer – the “Shearer
Clearer”. Curtains can also be effective in isolating the operators from the shearer derived dust laden
air.

6.2 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


Personal protective equipment should only be used as a last resort to reduce the dust exposure of
workers to dust. There are three types of air purifying respirators namely gas, particulate filter and
combined gas and particulate filters, refer Figure 6.1.

Figure 6.1 Some Types Of Personal Respiratory Protective Devices

Disposable half face Half face filter (cartridge) Full face filter (cartridge) Air Stream Helmet
particulate only respirators respirators respirators

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Disposable filters have no effect on mine gases but are light weight, inexpensive and generally more
comfortable to wear. For general dust and gas protection and for short term exposure up to 10 x TLV-
TWA, half face filter respirators are required. A variety of cartridges are available for different mine
gases and offer differing degrees of protection. It is important to note that none of these respirators
protect against reduced oxygen levels.

For higher exposure concentrations full-face masks are required, however, it is not normally
acceptable to use personal protective equipment as a means of raising limiting TLV-TWA
concentrations in the general body. These masks would be appropriate for emergency egress.

The selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protection devices is covered by Australian
Standard AS 1715-1991 and Respiratory Protection devices by AS 1716-1991.

6.3 Dust Suppression With Water


Suppressing dust with water is by far the most common way of minimising the amount of dust that
becomes airborne, for example;

• Wet drilling.
• Pick and shearer drum sprays.
• Wetting down rock or coal piles before loading.
• Spraying roadway surfaces to prevent dust pick up from mobile equipment.
• Mechanisms for spraying water onto broken rock immediately after a development blast.
• Water and foam sprays to tunnel boring machine heads.
• Water infusion of coal seams to increase moisture content after pre drainage.

Wetting agents, known as surfactants, may be added to water in order to reduce surface tension and
improve the degree of wetting obtained. The success of these products is variable and depends on
rock type.

Machine pick spray requirements range widely but will be between 10 and 20 l/ tonne. Sprays can also
used above and behind longwall supports to wet the roof and immediate goaf.

In dry coal seams or those that have been dewatered during pre drainage of gas, water infusion may
be essential for dust control. Water is normally introduced through pre drainage holes at 7 to 20
l/tonne and a pressure of 0.8 to 2 MPa. Higher pressures may be used but as these will approach the
tensile strength of coal, hydro fracturing may occur. Successful infusion may take weeks or months
depending on flow rate and size of the seam. The effect is variable although 50 to 90 % reductions in
respirable fraction have been reported (Vutukuri, 1986)

Roadway dust can be further suppressed by spreading hygroscopic salts such as calcium or sodium
2
chloride at a density of 2 to 3 kg per m . These serve to maintain moisture contents at 10% if the
ambient humidity is greater than 75 % otherwise periodic spraying will be required. The alternative in
very heavy traffic areas is to lay concrete floors.

It is important to note that some chemicals used for dust suppression have an adverse effect on
mineral processing or coal floatation systems. This should be considered before introducing these
chemicals to a mine.

Once airborne, it becomes significantly more difficult to manage dust in the respirable fraction with
water sprays alone. In all cases it is preferable, from an operational and economic point of view, to
maximise dust suppression and therefore minimise airborne dust to be captured. There are some
areas where it may not possible to use large amounts of water, for example inclined conveyor belts or
over ore passes, in these cases dust capture methods are required.

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6.4 Dilution, Capture And Transport Of Airborne Dust


Airborne dust can be diluted in a similar manner to gas. However, the main limitation is that increasing
air velocity will tend to increase dust pick up, refer Table 6.1.

Table 6.1 Dust Pick up Velocities Figure 6.2 Effect Of Air Velocity
(Sandys 1982 ) (Vutukuri, 1986)

Size 5
Range Quartz m/s Coal m/s

Relative Respirable Dust


4 Free falling
µm Dry Semi dry Dry Semi dry
75 – 105 6.3 7.4 5.3 6.3 Longwall

Concentration
3 face
35 – 75 5.3 6.3 4.2 5.3
10 - 35 3.1 4.2 3.2 4.2
2
Scouring
surfaces
1
Dilution Pick up
0
0 1 2
Air Velocity m/s

For smaller particle sizes ( < 35 µm) the effect of density is very small and dust may start to be
scoured at 3.0 to 4.0 m/s. Consequently, dilution can be considered if the effect is to increase air
velocities from < 1.0 m/s to about 2.5 m/s, refer Figure 6.2

When using ducted ventilation systems for localised control of dust, two velocities must be considered.
The first is the capture velocity, required to ensure that dust is drawn into the duct, and the second is
the transport velocity within the duct required to prevent deposition before entering dust extraction
systems.

Capture velocities typically range 1.0 to 2.0 m/s for normal dust, or up to 5.0 m/s for large high density
dusts. For light fumes and gases a capture velocity of 0.1 to 0.25 m/s may be adequate. To achieve
capture velocities with practicable air quantities, various entry hoods may be used, refer Figure 6.3, or
circuit geometry.

Duct transport velocities range 13 to 28 m/s depending on density and particulate size, refer Table 6.2.
For most mine dusts the range will be 20 to 25 m/s.

Figure 6.3 Hood Design (Daly 1978) Table 6.2 Dust Transport Velocity (Daly, 1978)
Light Fumes And Vapours
Particulate Transport
velocity m/s
Q = V x 2.8 H(L + H)
Asbestos and limestone 13
V = capture velocity Metal fumes and dusts 15
Sand blasting 18 to 22
Pulverised coal 20
Lead dust 28
Wood chips and shavings 20 to 25

W + 0.8 H

L + 0.8H
H

Width W

Length L

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6.5 Removal Of Airborne Dust


As described above, dust particles in the respirable fraction are considered to remain permanently
airborne while larger particles may settle out within a few meters of their source. Removing dust from
air is invariably problematic in terms of additional equipment, maintenance, capital and operational
costs.

It is normally preferable to suppress dust sources and or direct dust laden air to return airways thus
avoiding the need for dust extraction equipment. Most modern coal mine continuous miner and
longwall panels employ this principle. However, situations may arise where this is not possible and
dust extraction equipment is required. This may be due to the location of the dust source or, in some
metalliferous mines, the dust may have some value and so dust extraction has a cost benefit in
addition to pollution control. A summary of mechanisms employed and types of dust extractor
available is provided in Table 6.3.

Table 6.3 Dust Extraction Mechanisms And Types

Mechanisms Collector Types


Employed
• Gravity settlement • Dry centrifugal
• Inertial deposition • Dry fabric collectors
• Stream line interception • Wet collectors and scrubbers
• Diffusional deposition • Electrostatic precipitators
• Electrostatic deposition
• Thermal deposition
• Sonic agglomeration

The size of the dust extractor depends on the volume of air to be cleaned. The type and number of
extractors depends on the efficiency required and loading for the various size fractions present. It may
be appropriate to use different types in series to reduce the load on equipment aimed at smaller size
fractions. A summary of dust extraction performance and design criteria is provided in Table 6.4.

Table 6.4 Summary Of Particulate Collectors


(Sandys & Quillam 1982, McPherson 1993)

Type Of Plant Size Range Efficiency % Air Velocity Pressure


µm Of Respirable m/s Drop
Fraction Pa
Settling chambers >100 0 <1 0.05 to 0.10
Wet scrubber 3 to 100 70 to 80 2 0.025 to 1.25
Dry Bag 0.1 to 100 85 to 99 0.025 to 0.125 0.25 to 0.75
Cyclones 3 to 100 70 20 0.75 to 1.25
Venturi scrubbers 0.01 to 100 90 60 to 120 2.5 to 5.0
Electrostatic precipitators 0.01 to 100 85 to 98 1 to 2 0.05 to 0.125

The efficiency of dust extraction equipment is defined by the following equation.

Equation 2.1 Efficiency Of Dust Extractors

η = Dust in (mg/m3 or p/m3 ) - Dust out (mg/m3 or p/m3 )


Dust in (mg/m3 or p/m3 )

This may be expressed for total dust and or for individual size fractions eg respirable fraction.

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6.5.1 Settling Chambers


Settling chambers are the simplest form of dust extraction equipment and are only practicable for large
particles (> 100 µm) which settle at velocities above 0.5 to 0.75 m/s. The design would normally
include a change in flow direction to assist inertial deposition.

Return airways could be considered to serve this function which, in coal mines, creates the problem of
explosive dust layers requiring treatment with stone dust. They may also be used as a pre settler for
other equipment to reduce loading.

6.5.2 Water Sprays


The capture efficiency with which water droplets remove dust from air depends on

• the relative velocity between the water droplet and dust particle
• the ratio of particle diameters
• the length of contact between water and air.

Figure 6.4 Efficiency Of Water Sprays


Dust particles pass in
slip stream

Dp

Water droplet
Dw Capture
diameter
Dc

Relative velocity of water droplet


and dust particle

Capture efficiency of spray ∝ Capture efficiency of droplet x Water flow rate x Spray length
Diameter water droplet Quantity of air

Capture efficiency of a droplet ∝ Relative velocity x Particle density x Particle diameter


Viscosity of air x Diameter water droplet

For dust particles between 1 and 5 µm the water droplet size should be 0.05 to 0.3 mm diameter or
about 100 times the particulate diameter. However, sprays will have little effect on the respirable
fraction unless very fine water droplets are brought into contact with dust at high velocity and over a
sustained length. Fine spray “fog” nozzles which are designed to improve atomisation (2.5 to 10,000
µm) and various spray patterns are available, refer Figure 6.5.

Figure 6.5 Various Spray Patterns

Spray Nozzle Hollow Cone Full Cone Various Fan Angles

It is also important to provide a suitable ratio of water to air. McPherson, 1993 suggests a loading
3
range of 0.3 to 0.6 litres water per m air.

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Generally, smaller droplets are formed at higher operating pressures, introducing compressed air or
alternatively injecting water into a high speed fan impeller also improves atomisation and contact with
dust particles.

6.5.3 Wet Scrubbers


Wet scrubbers come in a variety of designs, sizes and capacity, but all remove dust using water
sprays in highly turbulent air streams normally confined in a duct of some description. Turbulence
improves mixing and inertial impact between water and dust droplets, wetted surfaces and filter beds,
if fitted. For example refer Figure 6.6 and 6.7. More sophisticated designs include automatic sludge
removal and reverse flushing of filters.

Figure 6.6 Wet Scrubber With Fan And Filter


Water Filter
droplet Water spray
Bed
eliminators and impeller

Air Outlet Air Inlet

Sludge Sump
Water Inlet
Flush line Pump
drain

In this example the fan blades are wet and exposed to dust laden air. With more abrasive dusts the
fan can be located after the filter to minimise wear and other means of atomising the spray employed.

Figure 6.7 Venturi Scrubber

Air in Air out

Water High velocity high To drop out section,


sprays turbulence mixing cyclone or eliminator
plates

Flooded wet scrubbers operate by bubbling dust laden air through a container of water or foam. These
units have relatively high back pressures and collection efficiencies of about 80 %.

The main advantage of wet scrubbers are that they are relatively simple to operate and produce dust
as a wet slurry that can be managed and settled without risk of re entraining dust into the atmosphere.
However, in some situations the amount of water required may be unmanageable and dry methods
will be required.

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6.5.4 Dry Fabric Filters


Figure 6.8 Dry Fabric Filter With Vibrating Bag Cleaner
Suspended bags
Dry fabric filters operate by passing
contaminated air through bags made of
woven fabric or needle felt. Various
materials are available providing a balance
of strength, fibre diameter and hole spacing.
Clean Motor
air out driven
Collection efficiency increases as the filter vibrator
material become caked with dust, however
the pressure drop also increases. These
extractors are fitted with vibrating cleaners
or reverse cycle air flushing to periodically
remove the accumulated dust. Dusty
air in

The filter fabric operates most efficiently at


velocities of 0.025 to 0.125 m/s which is the
main factor that determines unit size. For
3
example, at 8 m /s a surface area of about
2
8.0 / 0.05 = 160 m is required. Low velocity
settling
chamber
These units are suitable for general underground mine
applications but have limited use for high temperature or
chemically active exhaust gases from surface process Dust
out
plants.

6.5.5 Cyclones
Figure 6.9 General Dimensions Of A Cyclone

Cyclones operate by introducing contaminated air


Air in
tangentially to a conical container with central discharge
throat, refer Figure 6.9. Dc/4

The dust is constrained in a helical vortex in which it is


subject to two forces. A centrifugal force moves particles Dc
towards the outer walls and a drag force towards the Air out
Dc/2
outlet throat. The cyclone efficiency therefore increases
with denser/larger particles, increased velocity or if the Air in
diameter is reduced.
Dc/8

Cyclones are most economical for larger size ranges (> Dc/2
10 µm) and may be used as pre treatment for other dust 2.Dc
extraction equipment.

2.Dc

Dust
out

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6.5.6 Electrostatic Precipitators


Figure 6.10 Electrostatic Precipitators
Electrostatic precipitators work by imparting an electric
Electrode 25 to 50 kV DC
charge to dust particles which then migrate to grounded
insulators
plates. The charge field intensity is increased by use of Negative
wires which normally form the negative electrode. discharge wires

Dust accumulation on the earthed plates is removed by


scrapping into a hopper.

The collection efficiency is proportional to plate area,


electron migration velocity and inversely proportional to
air flow rate.

Electrostatic precipitators have very high efficiency in the


respirable fraction but , due to the need for high voltage
power of 25 to 50 kV, their use is limited in underground
metalliferous mines and not applicable in gassy coal
mines. Dust
Positive
collector

6.5.7 Diesel Particulate Controls

The control of DPM is best achieved at source. Control can be achieved by using exhaust filters
utilising water filled scrubber tanks, fabric or paper filters. Equally important is to ensure that the
engine is running properly and inlet air filters are clean. A properly tuned engine, well maintained
produces significantly less DPM than a poorly tuned one.

6.6 Selection Factors To Consider


Factors that effect selection of dust collection equipment are summarised as follows, Howes 1981;

1. Chemical and physical properties of the dust, including solubility, abrasiveness and corrosive
characteristics.

2. Particle size distribution and required efficiency over size ranges present.

3. Particulate load in the contaminated stream – consider pre collectors if this is high or large
particles are present.

4. Space limitations – cyclones and wet scrubbers occupy less floor area compared to electrostatic
precipitators or fabric filter collectors.
O
5. Gas temperature – electrostatic precipitators are normally used for high > 200 C gas streams
from industrial processes.

6. Removal of collected material – if the dust collected has value, it may be required in a dry or wet
state. This will influence the use of wet scrubbers if an additional drying is required. Transport of
dry dust underground is problematic. In these circumstances a wet, or moist, product may be
preferred.

7. Maintenance requirements – will vary with sophistication of the equipment and whether it is
located on surface or underground.

8. Capital and operating costs – collection efficiencies are usually related to power consumption. It is
important to include costs associated with all ancillary equipment such as pumps and fans.

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7.0 EXPLOSIBLE DUSTS


All dusts comprising combustible material will burn or explode under the right conditions. The
propensity of dust to explode depends on it’s inherent chemical reactivity, particle size and
concentration in the atmosphere. Finer particles have a greater surface area to volume ratio and are
therefore more prone to explode. Some dust explosions occur in food industries, with flour or sugar,
and with coal or sulphide ore dusts in underground mines.

Coal dust poses a major explosion hazard in all coal mines and has resulted in the deaths of many
thousands of mine workers world wide. In metalliferous mines, the main hazard is associated with
sulphide minerals. In addition, being more reactive, accumulation of these dusts also poses a fire
hazard when adjacent to a source of ignition, for example coal dust accumulation on conveyor belt
rollers. A common non mining dust explosion is that found in flour mills and grain storage silos.

Atmospheres containing combustible dusts are potentially explosive when clouds of particles are
generated at the required fuel – oxygen concentration ratio close enough to the flame or explosion
initiation for propagation of the flame front i.e not too fuel lean or too fuel rich. A characteristic of dust
explosions is that the shock wave travels faster than the flame front.

The concentration of dusts required to create an explosive atmosphere is significantly higher than that
normally acceptable in work places. For example, the lower flammability concentration for coal dust is
3 3
of the order 50 grams per m compared to a TLV-TWA concentration of 2 to 3 milligrams per m .
However, there are circumstances when concentrations of this magnitude can occur, for example the
shock wave after blasting, pressure front from a gas explosion or adjacent to picks of a development
miner or longwall shearer.

7.1 Effects Of Dust Explosions


The general effects of explosions are well known, although the extent of the various effects depends
upon the type of explosion, the nature of the mine and the location of the point of ignition.

The principal effects are due to the blast energy and heat. Pressures up to 1 MPa can be generated.
These pressure will be dissipated as the explosion propagates and separates along roadways and
headings. The pressure waves can cause ventilation reversal and major damage to the ventilation
controls within a mine. Other equipment and structures within the mine may also be damaged and
destroyed. A summary of the physical effects of explosion overpressure are summarised in Table 7.1

Table 7.1 Physical Effects Of Explosion Overpressure


(report by Stephan and Urosek , MSHA to Moura No.2 Inquiry, 1995)

Peak overpressure Effect


1 psi ~ 7 kPa knock a person over
2 psi ~ 14 kPa Stopping made of dry blocks surface sealed may fail
4 psi ~ 28 kPa Stopping made of mortared blocks may fail
5 psi ~ 35 kPa damage to eardrums
15 psi ~ 105 kPa Lung damage
35 psi ~ 245 kPa Threshold for fatalities
65 psi ~ 455 kPa 99 % of persons present will be killed

The high temperatures can result in severe burning of personnel and equipment. These in turn may
cause secondary fires.

The residual atmosphere will be oxygen deficient and may contain lethal concentrations of carbon
dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. In addition flammable gases may be generated from
the pyrolysis of organic materials creating a secondary fire/explosion hazard.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

7.2 Coal Mine Dust Explosions


Coal dust explosions occur when the following conditions are met;

1. Sufficient oxygen to sustain an explosion


• All accessible mine workings clearly have sufficient oxygen.

2. Dust of a composition capable of sustaining an explosion


• Propensity to explode depends on volatile content, fineness, moisture and ash (incombustible)
content.
• Coal dust with volatiles < 10 to 12 % cannot sustain an explosion and above about 22 % there
3
is little further increase in propensity. Low rank coals such as lignites have a LEL of < 30 g/m ,
3
whereas high rank anthracitic coals can be as high as 100 g/m .
• A fine dust is required to provide a high surface area of rapid heat transfer and rapid emission of
volatiles as flammable vapours.

3. Means of raising sufficient dust into the air


• Normal atmospheric concentrations are one or two orders of magnitude below lower explosive
limits.
• Most common cause of dust explosions is the dust cloud raised by a gas explosion.
• May also be caused by explosives.

4. Means of ignitions
• Coal dust ignites at about 600 OC in air, refer Figure 7.1, but can ignite at significantly lower
O
temperatures (150 to 200 C) when layers accumulate on hot surfaces (Stull, 1977), refer
Figure 7.2. This is due to the insulating effect of the layer.
• Methane explosions are the most common but explosives may also ignite dust. Cable flashes
resulting from damage to 1000 V cables do not raise sufficient dust to cause a dust explosion
directly.
• Coal dust should not be allowed to accumulate on hot surfaces (rollers or drives) due to the
much lower ignition temperature.

Figure 7.1 Effect Of Volatile Content On Ignition Figure 7.2 Effect Of Layer Thickness On
Temperature Of Coal Dust In Air Ignition Temperature Of Coal Dust

1000 400
900
Minimum Ignition Temp C
Minimum Ignition Temp C

350
800
300
700
600 250
500 200
400 150
300
100
200
100 50

0 0
0 10 20 30 40 50 0 10 20 30 40 50
Volatile % Dust Layer Thickness mm

The explosibility concentration limits of the dust may be extended by the presence of flammable gases
3
As described above, such hybrid atmospheres can ignite as low as 10 g/m of coal dust with 1 % CH4.
In general, the more volatile the coal the lower the lower explosive dust concentration limit. As with
gases there are lower and upper explosive limits for dusts. The most powerful explosions occur where
the dust will just consume all the oxygen present.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

While explosions occurring in non coal dusts can be classed as deflagrations (shock wave travels at or
below speed of sound - 330 m/s) the ignition of coal dust by a methane explosion may generate
sufficient pressures and temperatures to detonate the gas–dust mixture. In a detonation type
explosion, the flame front approaches the speed of the shock wave which may travel at two or the
times the speed of sound (1000 m/s 3600 km/h).

Miners frequently survive pure gas explosions however the effect of a fully developed detonating dust
explosion is catastrophic by comparison. In addition to generating air velocities capable of turning
even large pieces of equipment in to projectiles, dust explosions are normally fuel rich resulting in the
production of large amounts of carbon monoxide (up to 50,000 ppm have been reported).
3
The minimum explosive concentration of high rank, bituminous coal is about 50 g/m with maximum
3
explosive force occurring at 150 – 350 g/m . For the purposes of quantifying dust with the potential for
becoming airborne, all dust passing through a 250 µm sieve is measured. It is important to note that
only very thin layers of dust are required to form explosive mixtures.

Worked Example – Dust Explosions – Layer Thickness

What average thickness of coal dust on the floor of a 3 x 5 m heading is required to form a dust cloud of
50 g/m3 (assume density of coal dust = 1100 kg/m3 ) ?

Volume of airway per m = 3 x 5 = 15 m2

Mass of dust required = 15 x 50 = 0.75 kg per m


1000
2
Surface area of floor = 5 m per m
2
Average floor covering = 0.75 / 5 = 0.15 kg/m

Thickness of layer = 0.15 / 1100 = 0.00014 m = 0.14 mm ie a very thin layer

The various zones of a coal dust explosion are shown in Figure 7.3. At the point of ignition by methane
the explosion propagates at the same speed as the gas explosion but then starts to accelerate. The
shock wave is moving faster then the flame front. The flame is where the actual cloud is.

Figure 7.3 Propagation Of A Coal Dust Explosion

Flame front Shock wave

Hot, oxygen depleted Dense cloud of coal Shock wave


and highly toxic gas dust above 50 g/m
3 energy
mixture. decreases at
intersections

As more dust becomes airborne the explosion increases in intensity, finally detonating when sufficient
pressures, temperature and fuel density have been reached. Behind the flame front the atmosphere is
hot, oxygen depleted and highly toxic. Violent implosions often follow explosions as air flows back to
the area in which oxygen has been consumed.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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7.2.1 Controls
Due to the geometry of coal mine ventilation circuits and volumes of airborne dust reporting to return
airways, layers of dust sufficient to result in an explosive potential are inevitable. Rather than
attempting to remove the dust, the principal method of control is to mix or cover the dust with inert
stone dust (limestone). Of course, control of methane concentrations and miscellaneous ignition
sources are also very important.

Stone dust functions in two ways: through absorption of the energy generated by the explosion and
through shielding coal dust particles from the heat. The stone dust or limestone (calcium carbonate)
breaks down into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide. The calcium oxide then reacts with any moisture
present to form calcium hydroxide. The carbon dioxide also then acts as a retardant.

Whilst lower concentrations of stone dust are required to suppress an explosion in the developing
stages, about 85% incombustible fraction is required to suppress a fully developed explosion. This
value depends upon the volatility of the coal with higher values being required for low rank coals.
Particular stone dusting requirements are outlined in the respective state coal mining safety and health
regulations and vary slightly between the states.

Stone dust should be of a similar particle size to coal dust although not too small that it will cake in
humid conditions. As stone dust is about twice as dense as coal, it will not disperse to the same extent
and therefore dusters need to be spaced out in return airways during production. The requirements
for the type of stone dust are also contained within the relevant state coal mining safety and health
regulations.

Coal “float” dust (< 75 µm) settling on stone dust can completely negate explosion suppression above
2
50 g/m . Consequentely, stone dust is normally applied by means of a trickle duster in return airways
during production. This will apply stonedust at rates of 30 kg/hour for continuous miner panels and
150 kg/hour for longwalls.

Stone dust can also be applied as a slurry to form an inert base, particularly in intake airways with low
dust loading. However, the harder surface formed may not rise sufficiently during an explosion and
periodic re application of dry dust is required to ensure the surface is adequately inert.

Stone dust, of a similar particle size to coal will suppress the coal dust component of an explosion but
will not suppress a gas explosion.

Stone dust explosion barriers are used to limit propagation of a dust explosion throughout the mine by
placing large quantities of dust at key points in the mine, where other dusting mechanisms are
ineffective, such as belt roads. The rationale is that it is very difficult to ensure 85 % incombustible
dust on every surface of the mine and therefore effort should focus on most likely ignition sources.
There are two types of stone dust barriers – Polish, where the shelves are mounted along the roadway
and German, where the shelves are mounted across the roadways.

The following comments summarise barrier issues (Ellis, 1999), refer Figure 7.4.

1. The barrier must be capable of distributing it’s load when struck by a wind blast. Additional
features are required for activation in a weak explosion. These include flat loose boards and
structure that will be dislodged by weak explosions.

2. The shock wave activates the barrier but the stone dust is aimed at suppressing the flame front. If
the barrier is too close to the ignition source the flame front will have passed before sufficient
stone dust is airborne. If too far away, insufficient stone dust may remain airborne when the flame
front passes. Distributed barriers comprising light and heavy loaded shelves are used to overcome
this problem.

3. The barriers must extend for the full width of the airway and are more effective if placed high, but
not in cavities.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

4. The most inbye end of a distributed barrier row should be as close as possible to the face area
and the most outbye row no more than 30 m from the conveyor belt feeder or boot end.

5. The total barrier load should not be less than 400 kg per square meter of airway cross sectional
area.

The spacing of rows shall be such that the mass of stone dust is not less than 1.0 kg per cubic meter
2
ie spacing = mass per row (kg) / cross sectional area (m ).

Figure 7.4 Passive Stone Dust Barriers

Load 30 (light) to 60 (heavy) kg


350 to 500 mm on loose boards that are
dislodged by shock wave

< 200 mm
0.9 m < x < 2.1 m
> 150 mm

Heavy
Light Distributed
load load
barrier shelf
spacing

1.2 m < x < 3.0 m

Explosion barriers are no longer mandatory in Queensland underground coal mines.

An alternative to the classic European designed stone dust barrier is the South African designed
“shopping bag” approach. Similar dust densities are required and are achieved by hanging rows of
plastic bags, each containing 6 kg of stone dust. The bags are very strong in the vertical direction but
break very easily if disturbed horizontally. The main advantages of this method are that the bags are
easy to install, maintain and move, they can be distributed around obstructions and as the bags are
sealed, they are impervious to moisture and the dust is not blown away by the ventilation. The bags
can be triggered by a minimum dynamic pressure of only 3 kPa. The rows of bags are spread over a
roadway length of 100 m.

Water barriers are also used in panel isolation barriers and comprise plastic containers of 40 to 60 l
capacity placed across the airway either on supports or with hinged activators, refer Figure 7.5.

Figure 7.5 Passive Water Barriers

Containers either
dislodged or shattered by
explosion

Hinged face plate

> 1.5 m

Water
container Direction of
shock wave

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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Water barriers can function effectively when:

• A time of between 0.2 and 0.5 s is available for water dispersion


• Explosion dynamic pressure of at least 20 kPa
• Minimum flame speed of about 76 m/s
• Barrier more than 60 m from face or initiation of explosion
• Flame velocity less than about 500 m/s

Another innovation that has been extensively trialled overseas is the use of triggered or active
barriers. These attempt to overcome the problems caused by static barriers either triggering too early
or too late. Sensors detect the propagation of the explosion and calculate the rate of discharge of the
barriers to be optimally dispersed when the flame front arrives. A detailed discussion of active barriers
is contained within the final report on ACARP project C8010 (Humphreys, 2001). Variations have
extended to machine mounted suppression systems and compressed gas powered systems.

Active or triggered barriers have been developed overseas whereby the retardant is activated and
aerated by either a small explosive charge or compressed gas at just the right time to be fully
dispersed for the explosion wave to react with. The triggers can be thermal, optical, use infrared or
ultraviolet sensors or use a combination of them. Pairs of sensors are used to detect the rate of
propagation of the explosion to optimise the dispersion time of the retardant. This mechanism has
also been used when other retardants such as rock phosphate have been employed. There has been
extensive research on active explosion/fire suppression in the USA, Germany and South Africa.

Good housekeeping is also very important. Wherever possible, the removal and prevention of
accumulations of coal dust should be a priority especially in belt roads and other roadways. Crushers
should be shrouded and use water sprays to suppress dust clouds. Surfactants can also be sprayed
onto coal surfaces to bind the coal particles together and prevent them becoming airborne.

As most coal dust explosions are initiated by methane gas explosions, effective control begins with
preventing the gas explosion. Gas explosions have bee discussed previously. In brief gas explosions
can be controlled by preventing accumulations of flammable gas, use of active barriers to spray
retardants at the point of ignition, and the removal or control of potential ignition sources such as
cutter picks and electrical equipment. The various State regulations set out minimum controls in terms
of equipment requirements to be intrinsically safe or flameproof.

The most common environment for a hybrid explosion is around the cutter head, where both dust and
gas are generated during the mining process, and of course the picks could potentially provide the
ignition source from frictional ignition.

Good cutting techniques will minimise dust generation. These include:

• Cutting roof to floor • Wetting the coal • Slow drum speeds


• Using sharp picks • Prevention of recirculation

In certain areas, particularly sealed areas, it may be possible to prevent an explosion by reducing the
oxygen concentration through use of an inert gas to displace the air. Gases used for this are the
same as used for inertisation discussed previously.

A summary of the explosion prevention techniques is outlined in Table 7.2.

Table 7.2 Explosion Prevention Techniques

Methane Explosion Coal Dust Explosion Hybrid Explosion


• Methane drainage • Watering • Methane drainage
• Ventilation • Water sprays • Ventilation
• Gas monitoring • Dust suppression • Gas monitoring
• Gas inerting • Dust extraction • Stone dusting
• Stone dusting • Gas inerting
• Gas inerting

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

7.3 Sulphide Dust Explosions


Ignitions of sulphide dusts have increased over the past 20 years with increasing use of large hole
diameter blasting, and in particular vertical crater retreat methods, (DME WA, 1997). Although less
severe than coal dust explosions, there is clearly the potential for fatalities and extensive damage.

As with coal dust explosions, the ignition of sulphide ores requires certain conditions to be met, as
follows;

Oxygen concentration – greater than 13 % is required.

Particle size – particles with diameter less than 180 µm are reactive. Normally less than 8 % of the
dust produced by blasting will be in this size range however accumulations on rock surfaces in or
around loading areas and crushers will be sufficient to raise a dust cloud with the potential to explode.

Sulphur content – greater than 18 % sulphur is required for dusts to be flammable. Pyrite and
pyrrhotite minerals are of the main concern as they contain 14 to 54 % sulphur.

Minimum ignition temperature - tests have shown the minimum ignition temperature to be 320 to
O
365 C. The most common ignition source is by flash from explosives. Events have occurred in
development, primary stoping and secondary breaking operations. It is also possible that incendive
sparking by impact with rock surfaces may ignite dust.
3
Minimum explosive concentration – a concentration greater than 100 g/m is required for
propagation of an explosion.

Toxic gases – large volumes of sulphur dioxide are produced, for example the oxidation equation for
black magnetite is 3FeS2 + 8O2 = Fe3O4 + 6SO2↑. Hydrogen sulphide H2S may also occur.

Controls – historically, the most common occurrence of sulphide dust ignitions have been during
primary or secondary blasting as these activities provide both a source of dust and ignition. Dust
concentrations can be minimised by washing down within 20 m of the charged holes. Flash ignition
and dust produced by firing, can be minimised by optimising charge density. drill pattern design and
stemming of the holes. Secondary blasting with explosives placed on rock surfaces should be
avoided.

The workforce will be removed to a safe location during blasting in any event, although this may
require removal to surface if there is a risk of sulphide dust explosions. Self contained oxygen, rather
than filter type, self rescuers are required together with appropriate re entry, monitoring and inspection
procedures.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

8.0 REFERENCES

8.1 References Underpinning This Module


Le Roux W.L. 1990 “Le Roux’s Notes On Mine Environmental Control Ch.8 Dust”
Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa

8.2 References Contained In The Course Notes


Colinet, J.F. et al , 1997 “Status Of Dust Control Technology On U.S Longwalls” 6th International Mine
Ventilation Congress, Pittsburgh

Enright, R.J. , 1988 ”Theoretical Evaluation Of Sulphide Dust Explosions In Open Stopes” 4th
International Mine Ventilation Congress, Brisbane

Gillies, A.D.S et al ,1997 “Investigation Into the Sulphide Dust Explosibility And The Influences Of Post
Detonation Fumes” 6th International Mine Ventilation Congress, Pittsburgh

James, G.C. and Browning, E. , 1988 “Extraction Techniques For Airborne Dust Control” 4th
International Mine Ventilation Congress, Brisbane

Jayarmane, N., Colinet, J. and Jankowski, R. , 1992 “Recent Research On Dust Removal For Coal
Mine Applications” 5th International Mine Ventilation Congress, Johannesburg

Lamae, R.D. and Yuzhou, L. , 1992 “Control Of Respirable Dust On Longwall Faces” 5th International
Mine Ventilation Congress, Johannesburg

Stachuluk, J.S. and Conrad, B.R. , 1997 “Diesel Emissions Control Strategy At Inco” 6th International
Mine Ventilation Congress, Pittsburgh

8.2 Further References


ACGIH 1984 “Industrial Ventilation – A Manual Of Recommended Practice”
th
American Conference Of Industrial Hygienists, 18 edition.

Australian Standard 1715-1991 “Selection, use and Maintenance of Respiratory Protective


Equipment”, Standards Association of Australia.

Austrlian Standard 1716-1991 :Respiratory Protection Devices” Standards Association of Australia

Australian Standard 2985 “Workplace Atmospheres – Method For sampling And Gravimetric
Determination Of Respirable Dust” Standards Association of Australia.

Cantrell BK and Watts W F (1997) “Diesel Exhaust Aerosol: Review of Occupational Exposure” Appl.
Occup. Environ. Hyg, 12 (12) pp 1019 – 1027

Daly B.B 1978 “Woods Practical Guide To Fan Engineering” Pub. Univ Press Camb.

Davies B, Glover D and Manuell R, 2001. “Keeping Coal Miners Healthy at Work” Joint Coal Board
Health and Safety Trust, January 2001.

Ellis C 1999 “Guidelines For Coal Dust Explosion Prevention And Suppression” NSW Dept. Mineral
Resources MDG 3006 MRT 5

Gillies S, 2001 “Dust Measurement and Control in Thick Seam Mining” Final Report to ACARP Project
No. C 9002. Australian Coal Association Research Program.

Grantham D, 1992 “Occupational Health and Hygiene – Guidebook For The WHSO” D L Grantham
publisher, Brisbane, Australia ISBN 0646064630, January 1992.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust

Holding 1982 “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines –Ch.28 Explosible Dusts”. Published
by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa.1982

Howes M J. 1981.”Environmental Engineering Course Notes”

Humphreys D, 2001. “Demonstration of Active Methane and Coal Dust Explosion Barrier
Demonstration” – ACARP Final Report Project c8010, Australian Coal Association Research Program.

MDE WA 1997 “Safety Management Of Underground Combustible Sulphide Dust – Guideline”


Dept. Minerals And Energy Western Australia. Doc ZM1578XC, December 1997.

McPherson M.J 1993 “Subsurface Ventilation And Environmental Engineering”


Pub Chapman And Hall ISBN 04122353008

Sandys M & Quillam J 1982 “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines –Ch.15 Sources And
Methods Of Dust Control”. Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa.1982

Schroder H.H.E 1982 “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines –Ch.12 The Properties And
Effects Of Dust”. Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa.1982

Stephan CR, Urosek JE and Giardino, DA 1995 “ A Technical Evaluation of Information Provided by
the Department of Minerals and Energy, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia concerning the Underground
Coal Mine Explosions Moura #2 Mine, Moura, Queensland, Australia, August 7 and 9 , 1994. Mine
Safety Health Administration. United States Department of Labour.

Strang J. and Mackenzie-Wood P. “A Manual On Mines Rescue, Safety And Gas Detection”
CSM Press NSW Australia 1990

Stull D.R 1977 “Fundamentals Of Fire And Explosion”.


Published by American Inst. Chem. Eng. AIChE Monograph Series No.10 Vol. 73 New York 1977

Tieran G and Van Zanten D (1998) “Development of an Extended Shift Exposure Limit Adjustment
Factor for Coal Mine Dusts”, in Proceedings of the Queensland Mining Industry Safety and Health
Conference , Yeppoon.

Vutukuri S and Lama R.D.1986 “Environmental Engineering In Mines ” Published Cambridge


University Press. pp 60-67

Walli R.A 1982 “Mine Ventilation And Air Conditioning – Ch 5 Mine Dusts”
Pub John Wiley & Sons New York ed. H Hartman.

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© 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs © 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs

Environmental Contaminants Sources Of Dust


Ore Pass With Rock Breaker Loading
Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs

Blasting

Contents
– Sources of dust
– Sampling equipment
– Dust suppression
– Dust removal
– Personal protection equipment

© 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs © 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs

Personal Sampling Equipment Area Sampling Equipment

Hund

Sample Pump

Impinger SIMSIN II
SMRE 113 A

Cyclone Head
Filter holder Flow calibration

© 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs © 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs

Dust Suppression Dust Collection


Longwall Shearer Sprays

Cyclone Pre filter Large Cyclone


Fabric Filter

Pick Sprays
Various Spray Nozzles Bifurcated Dust Scrubber Multiple Cyclone

1
© 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs © 2003 UNSW Underground Mine Environment Module 2.3 Airborne And Explosible Dust Photographs

Personal Protective Equipment (1) Personal Protective Equipment (2)

Filter Dust Mask


Full face cartridge
respirators
Half face cartridge Air Stream Helmet
respirators

LAST SLIDE RETURN TO START >>>>

2
SCHOOL OF MINING ENGINEERING
UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Australia

Underground Mine Environment Course


MODULE 2.0 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINANTS

2.4 MINE FIRES AND EXPLOSIONS

A Minerals Tertiary Education Council Initiative


MINERALS
COUNCIL
Of Australia

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Revision date December 2003
School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
 2003 University Of New South Wales Module 2.4 Mine Fires And Explosions

Contents Page

1.0 INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………………. 3

2.0 CAUSES OF FIRE AND EXPLOSIONS………………………………………………………. 4

2.1 Oxygen Concentration And Ventilation……………………………………………………… 4


2.2 Sources Of Fuel And Ignition………………………………………………………………… 5

3.0 TYPES OF FIRES……………………………………………………………………………..… 9

4.0 DETECTION OF MINE FIRES…………………………………………………………….…… 11

5.0 EFFECTS OF FIRES……………………………………………………………………………. 13

6.0 FIRE FIGHTING AND CONTROL…………………………………………………..………… 15

6.1 Evacuation And Refuge……………………………………………………………………… 17


6.1.1 Self Rescuers………………………………………………………………..…….…… 17
6.1.2 Refuge Chambers……………………………………………………………………… 18

7.0 REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………………… 19

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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1.0 INTRODUCTION
Due to the confined nature of ventilation systems and extensive geometry of underground mines, the
most catastrophic hazard faced by both the underground metalliferous and coal mining industries is
fire and explosion.

Unfortunately, fires and explosions continue to occur in the modern mining industry and must therefore
be considered an ever-present risk. The majority of deaths caused by mines fires and explosions are
due to inhalation of toxic fumes rather than by burning or blast effects. Consequently, means of
emergency egress, provision of respiratory protection devices and rescue procedures must be
considered in addition to prevention or fighting fires. A classic example of this was the fire at the
Sunshine Silver-Copper-Antimony mine in Idaho in 1972. A metalliferous mine, where waste material
at the base of the intake shaft was ignited and ultimately 91 people succumbed to CO poisoning.

Although sources of fuel and ignition may differ between metalliferous and coal mines, the
fundamental concept of the “fire triangle” applies in all cases. That is, fires require fuel, oxygen and
heat to continue burning or to propagate, removing any one of the three and the fire can be
extinguished. This concept is extended to include flame chain reaction (Cliff et al, 1998), but the
principle remains the same.

Spontaneous combustion and methane gas explosions are a major hazard in most coal mines,
however methane also occurs in some metalliferous mines and spontaneous combustion has also
occurred in sulphide ore bodies. Flammable gases and dusts are dealt with in Mine Gases And Gas
Laws, module 2.1 and Airborne And Explosible Dust, module 2.3. Spontaneous combustion of coal
is dealt with in Spontaneous Combustion of Coal, module 5.3.

The purpose of this module is to cover aspects of mine fires pertinent to ventilation engineers, it is not
intended to provide a text suitable for the design or implementation of systems for fire fighting or mines
rescue, if required, refer Bird et al, 1999, Mitchell, 1990 and MRB, 1997.

These module notes summarise key aspects of mine fires and explosions to a standard required for
this course. In this respect, they are not exhaustive and should only be used for guidance. It is
essential that candidates read and understand underpinning references for this module. Further
references are provided for candidates requiring more detailed information.

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2.0 CAUSES OF FIRES AND EXPLOSIONS


The phrase “prevention is better than cure” is particularly relevant to underground fires. Underground
mines contain numerous types of fuel and ignition sources associated with mine equipment, mining
method or indeed the workforce themselves. From a risk management point of view, it is rarely
possible to remove the hazard of fire completely. The approach taken is to put controls and barriers in
place to minimise the risk of a fire or explosion occurring and then to mitigate the consequences if an
event does in fact occur.

The following terms are to be considered;

Flashpoint temperature – the temperature to which a solid or liquid needs to be heated in order to
O
produce a vapour capable of being ignited. For example, the flash point for oil fuels ranges 35 - 55 C.

Ignition temperature – the lowest temperature required to initiate sustained combustion of a vapour
O
or gas. For example, the ignition temperature of methane is 595 C but the ignition temperature for
O
coal dust layers can be as low as 150 C.

Ignition energy – is the energy required by electrical sparks to ignite flammable gases. These can be
as low as 0.3 millijoules resulting from either electrical equipment or electrostatic charges.

Ignition source – may be a flame, spark or hot surface at a high enough temperature to ignite the
flammable vapour or gas. In the case of sparks, they also need to be of sufficient intensity and
duration.

Flames – are a result of the rapid oxidation of vapours, normally accompanied by heat and light.

Smouldering – a slower rate of combustion without flames due to lower rates of vapour formation or
lower oxygen concentrations.

2.1 Oxygen Concentration And Ventilation


All accessible “workplaces” of a mine will have oxygen concentrations ranging 20 to 21.95 %, and
certainly, as a statutory requirement, above 19 %. Consequently, oxygen concentrations are more
than adequate for ignition of a fire.

Open flames from all forms of combustion are extinguished when oxygen concentrations fall below 10
to 12 % and smouldering is normally extinguished below 2 to 4 %.

It is however, important to note that when large masses of combustible material are involved, for
example timber in stopes or coal in goafs, high temperatures can be maintained for considerable
periods of time after oxygen concentrations have been reduced. This may involve continued pyrolysis
and the risk of re ignition if oxygen is re introduced on subsequent re entry to the area.

Controlling oxygen concentrations in goaf environments is a common practice in coal mines for two
reasons. Firstly, if oxygen concentrations are kept below about 10 % the risk of spontaneous
combustion is reduced, and secondly, the nose point for an explosive mixture of methane is 12 %. A
typical target oxygen concentration in coal mine sealed areas would be below 4 % to provide a wide
margin of error.

In addition to providing oxygen, mine ventilation will spread products of combustion and “fan” the fire
by virtue of air velocity. An effect known as “flashover” can occur when flames and hot gases from a
fire are spread over unburned material. If the material temperature is raised to it’s ignition temperature
then it will be ignited and accelerate propagation of the fire. This can occur on conveyor belts or in
timbered areas, refer Figure 2.1. Timber sleepers provide sufficient fuel density for this effect to occur.

Figure 2.1 Flashover


Direction of airflow Hot gases and flame

Fire spreads to new material


Source of fire

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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2.2 Sources Of Fuel And Ignition

Figure 2.2 below shows the most common sources of fires in Queensland underground coal mines
between 1963 and 1994. In mechanised metalliferous mine the most common source of fire is due to
mobile diesel vehicles.

Figure 2.2 Queensland Underground Coal Mine Fires 1963-1994.


40

35

30
% Of Fires
25
Reported
20

15

10

0
Electrical Fault Hot Surface Ignition Miscellaneous
Cable Damage Frictional Heating Spontaneous
Combustion
Fire Classification
The more common sources of fuel and ignition in metalliferous and coal mines are as follows;

1. Diesel and other mechanised equipment – rubber tyres and diesel fuel provide a
significant fuel source and are particularly hazardous as the engine and electrical equipment
provide a source of ignition in close proximity. Other machinery containing oil, hydraulic fluid or
synthetic materials also pose a significant fire hazard.

In addition to the equipment itself, storage of flammable liquids and refuelling bays require special
attention with design specifications ordinarily prescribed by mine regulations or Australian
standards. It is preferable for these locations to have a separate ventilation circuit directed to
return airways.

General Controls – design specifications, maintenance schemes, thermal sensors and trips,
automatic fire suppression systems, fire fighting equipment at suitable accessible locations (on
board or on intake side of equipment).

Coal mine regulations also prescribe the type of mobile equipment that may be used
underground. Historically these specified maximum engine compartment and exhaust gas
temperatures together with the use of wet scrubbers. More recently consideration is being given
to use of non flame proof diesel equipment in specified (low explosion risk) areas of the mine.
Diesel equipment cannot be used in areas with a methane concentration above 1.0 % and
approved vehicles must carry automatically alarming methane monitors when in hazardous zones
(> 0.25% CH4).

2. Electrical equipment and power cables – provides an ignition source with the major
source of fuel associated with the variety of plastics used for coating power supply cables.

General Controls – as above plus, power interlocks and isolation procedures, specifications for
installation and location of cables, switch gear and transformers. Fire detection and suppression
systems should be installed at all major fixed electrical transformer locations. Many modern
transformers have replaced insulating oil which is flammable with inert gas or non flammable oil.

Coal mines will also have specifications for intrinsic safety, flame proofing and approval of
equipment for use in various underground explosion risk zones. Power will also be interlocked
with methane monitors adjacent to electrical equipment, for example drives or cutting heads.

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Power is automatically turned off at 1.25% CH4 for general body concentrations, and normally 2.0
% CH4 in the exhaust duct from a machine cutting head. Auxiliary fans are fitted with dilution
boxes to allow degassing of areas without passing high concentrations of methane through the
fan.

Conveyor belts have historically been the cause of a number of serious mine fires. Consequently,
modern conveyor drives are fitted with numerous condition sensors and conveyor belt material
designed not to promote flame propagation. The materials used for the belt itself are also low
carbon monoxide emitters. A fundamental control remains routine visual inspection of belt rollers,
belt alignment and general house keeping.

3. Electrostatic Ignition – of flammable gases occurs when a sufficient charge is generated to


result in a spark. This generally arises when movement occurs adjacent to or on a poor
conductor. For example, compressed air through plastic hoses, venturi air movers or air flow
through a fibreglass duct.

General Controls - earth equipment, use fire resistant anti static (FRAS) materials.

4. Timber – provides an obvious source of fuel for mine fires in which it is used as part of the
mining method. The use of mechanical roof support (bolts) has reduced timber intensity in mine
airways in recent years, however, timber is still used extensively in some mines for support or for
sleepers in rail haulage systems. The ignition temperature for sound timber is about 150 OC.

Spontaneous combustion of timber can occur due to bacterial growth as it decays (Mitchell,1990).
O
The critical first stage temperature for pasteurisation is 74 C with flaming combustion in decayed
O
timber occurring at about 95 C. The critical oxidation concentration for continued combustion
can be as low as 2%. Timber is therefore prone to long term smouldering. The continued
ventilation of a mine will dry out timber and make it more flammable – “tinder dry”.

General Controls - power cables are hung with adequate clearance, timber adjacent to potential
sources of ignition should be treated or covered with fire proof material. Water sprays in timbered
shafts used for drenching before and after welding.

5. Flammable Gases – will result in a gas fire or explosion when ignited in concentrations
between the upper and lower explosive limits, refer Mine Gases and Gas Laws, module 2.1. A
flame occurs when explosive/flammable concentrations are confined to a relatively small part of
the airway. An explosion occurs when the gas is more widely dispersed and intimately mixed with
air but remains between upper and lower explosive limits. For example, the term “hanging flame”
describes a flame of ignited methane at roof level in coal mines. This event may be of short
duration or continue to burn indefinitely if fuelled by a fissure or borehole.

In metalliferous mines, battery charging may also produce sufficient quantities of hydrogen to
form explosive mixtures. It is important to note that methane does occur in a variety of strata not
necessarily associated with coal seams. For example, methane has been detected in Australian
Lead-Zinc mine diamond drill holes at depths of 1500 m below surface. These situations may be
considered even more hazardous if, unlike coal mines, there is not a general culture of hazard
awareness in the mine.

General Controls - adequate ventilation for dilution to non explosive or statutory concentrations,
atmospheric monitoring, use of flame proof or intrinsically safe equipment, remove sources of
ignition.

Coal mines – regulations prescribe limiting concentrations of methane in areas of the mine and
specifications for equipment that may be used in areas of various explosion risk. In addition to
provision of adequate ventilation, pre drainage may also be employed to reduce gas emission
rates, refer Coal Mine Hazards, module 5.0. Under Queensland regulations the areas of the
mine are broken up into ERZ0, and ERZ1 explosion risk zones and NERZ zones, the use of
equipment, gas monitoring and other issues are managed in these zones commensurate with the
risk. In Australian coal mines, certain aluminium alloys containing magnesium are prohibited as
the incendive spark produced when struck by steel can ignite methane.

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6. Coal and sulphide dusts – in all coal mines, accumulations of coal dust pose a significant
fire hazard, and if made airborne during a gas explosion, may lead to a much more violent dust
explosion. Sulphide dust may also ignite in a similar manner, refer Airborne And Explosible
Dust, module 2.3.

General Controls - general good house keeping and maintenance to remove accumulations of
dust, particularly on or about equipment. Dust extraction equipment may be required to minimise
concentrations in return airways.

Coal mines – regulations prescribe specifications for the application of inert stone dust to all
airway surfaces.

7. Explosives – in metalliferous mines, igniter cord or application of unconfined explosives to


break large rocks can result in the ignition of timber or flammable materials in the proximity. In
coal mines, there is an additional risk of igniting gas and or coal dust.

General Controls - general good house keeping and maintenance to remove accumulations of
flammable material. Washing down sulphide dusts, improved blast design, stemming and
avoiding unconfined secondary blasting.

Coal mines – only certain low power explosives are permitted to be used in strata that does, or
may, contain methane. In addition, the amount of explosives and firing sequence for each and
every application must be in accordance with an approved scheme of work.

8. Frictional ignitions – in this context, describes the ignition of flammable gas mixtures due to
incendive sparking from cutter picks on development or longwall equipment. A common cause of
frictional ignitions is picks striking sandstone or pyritic material, generating a spark of sufficient
duration and intensity to ignite methane.

Of course friction may also cause fires in numerous other scenarios, for example winch ropes
adjacent to timber.

General Controls - preventing a flammable gas mixture occurring by adequate ventilation, in


particular full scouring of the face under auxiliary ventilation conditions. Forcing ventilation
systems will tend to improve face scouring but may exacerbate dust problems.

Coal mines – pre drainage, low sparking pick material, lower head rotation speeds and pick
sprays. In areas where friction ignition is likely onboard fire suppression systems can be fitted to
the cutter heads to quench an ignition before it becomes significant. The most common frictional
ignition is cutter pick on rock. Often the cutter pick is blunt and the incendivity of the rock relates
to the quartz content.

9. Spontaneous Combustion – is a major risk in coal mines, although propensity does


reduce with increased rank, refer Spontaneous Combustion Of Coal, module 5.3. Spontaneous
combustion events can also occur in sulphide ore bodies and sometimes in old, heavily timbered
areas, as described above.

Spontaneous combustion occurs when sufficient oxygen is present in a mass of material for
exothermic oxidation to take place. If there is sufficient mass to “incubate” the event, and
insufficient flow of air to remove heat generated, then temperatures may rise to the point that
ignition occurs. In addition to providing a source of ignition, the thermal breakdown of coal also
results in the release of potentially explosive gases such as carbon monoxide, methane and
hydrogen.

General Controls - prevent ingress of oxygen by effective sealing and control of pressure
differentials across high risk areas such as coal mine goafs. Encourage the development of an
inert atmosphere by introduction of seam gas or nitrogen.

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10. Conveyor Belts – Because of the location of belts, fires on belts have the potential to cause
serious damage and disruption in underground mines. The main ignition sources are the drive
head and rollers. Fires at the drive head may start as a result of an electrical fault or mechanical
frictional heating. Along the belt, bearings may seize or the belt may rub against other objects.
Belt fires are particularly dangerous due to their potential to develop quickly.

General Controls – Fire resistant belt materials should be used as well as detectors at all critical
points, such as drive heads and transfer points. Fire suppression systems should be considered
for key points. Belts should be patrolled regularly to prevent build up of combustible materials and
inspect for faulty rollers and failed bearings.

11. Oxy acetylene cutting and welding – is used widely in metalliferous mines, and with
additional controls, overseas underground coal mines. In Australia, approval for the use of gas
cutting and welding equipment is not common in underground coal mines although it can be
undertaken with appropriate controls and approval from the inspectorate.

General Controls - secure well designed means of transporting and storing gas cylinders.
Equipment to be well maintained and only used by trained workers in accordance with safe work
procedures. In particular, removal of flammable materials in the immediate area and provision of
fire fighting equipment. As with fuel storage bays, it is preferable for maintenance bays and
workshops to be ventilated directly to return airways.

Coal mines – in addition to general controls above, gas testing for methane will be undertaken
prior to, and during cutting in an area freshly stone dusted and clear of flammable materials.
However, the normal practice is to remove equipment to surface for such work to be undertaken.

12. Contraband and flammable rubbish – it is self evident that accumulations of flammable
materials in unsecured areas combined with miscellaneous ignition sources, such as smoking
materials, results in a fire hazard in any surface or underground environment.

General Controls - general good house keeping and training of the workforce, provision of
appropriate fire fighting equipment.

Coal mines – regulations strictly prohibit taking smoking materials or other “contraband” such as
battery watches or mobile phones, into an underground coal mine. The previous classification of
a class B or “non gassy” coal mine is no longer used following a methane gas ignition in one such
mine.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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3.0 TYPES OF FIRES


Fires can be categorised by the type of material that is burning, refer Table 3.1, whether it is an open
or confined fire and further, if the fire is oxygen or fuel rich, refer Figure 3.1.

Table 3.1 Class Of Fire And Extinguishing Agents

Class Description Examples Extinguishing


Agent
Class A solids (carbonaceous) fuels timber, rubber or coal Cool or smother - Water, foam, dry powder

Class B flammable liquids liquid fuels and oils Smother – foam, blankets, CO2

Class C flammable gases methane, hydrogen Smother – foam, dry powder, water fog

Class D flammable metals aluminium, magnesium Smother – dry powder, dry sand

Electrical Hazard Live electrical equipment Power isolation

Figure 3.1 Oxygen And Fuel Rich Fires (Sengupta, 1988)

Temperature
Oxygen %
Products of
combustion

Significant oxygen
remains on exhaust
side of fire

Oxygen Rich Fire Fumes, gases


and smoke

Charcoal zone Combustion Preheating


Zone Zone

Temperature
Oxygen %
Products of
combustion

Oxygen completely consumed

Fumes, gases and


Fuel Rich Fire smoke

Charcoal zone Combustion Excess Preheating


Zone Fuel Zone
Pyrolysis Zone

Typically, a fire will start at a single location and be confined to one of the material class types in Table
3.1. As the fire develops, other materials may be ignited and the fire will then involve more than one
class, for example diesel fuel igniting timber or a timber fire enveloping power cables.

In open fires, and the initiation of confined fires, oxygen concentrations will be sufficient to support
combustion of burning material and the fire is described as being oxygen rich. The fire remains oxygen
rich if sufficient oxygen is supplied to the fire site for the complete burning of material and flammable

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vapours produced. When the mass of flammable material is limited then the logical progression is for
the fire to continue burning until available fuel is consumed at which point it will be extinguished.
When the fire is confined (e.g. in a goaf) or the fire has reached sufficient magnitude, then all available
oxygen may be consumed without complete combustion of flammable gases and vapours produced in
the pre heating zone. The fire is then described as being fuel rich.

In the combustion zone of fuel rich fires, volatile fumes produced by thermal decomposition of
combustible material are burned. The gas temperature is at a maximum and the oxygen concentration
is reduced to zero. In the excess fuel zone, the temperature of these gases is sufficient to continue
thermal decomposition of combustible material but there is insufficient oxygen for combustion. The fire
is then described as being fuel rich with gases and vapours leaving the fire site containing flammable
components above their ignition temperature. The main risk is that introduction of more oxygen will
result in ignition of these gases with rapid propagation of the fire.

The exact composition of gases from a fire will vary, however, a general indication of gas compositions
from oxygen rich or fuel rich (distillation) fires involving coal or timber are shown in Table 3.2.

Table 3.2 Example Composition Of Gases (Volume %) Produced By Coal


And Timber In Oxygen Rich And Fuel Rich Fires
(Bird et al, 1999)

Gas Burning Burning Distillation Distillation Of


Coal Timber Of Coal Timber
O2 Rich O2 Rich Fuel Rich Fuel Rich Comment
CO 0.5 01 to 0.5 6 to 14 30 More when fuel rich
CO2 5.0 3 to 5 1 to 3 60 More when oxygen rich
H2 0.5 - 30 to 60 - Potentially explosive from coal
CH4 Burnt Burnt 20 to 40 10 Potentially explosive when not burnt
in fire

O2 Variable 16 to 18 - - Low or negligible in fuel rich fires

Interpretation of gas mixtures leaving the site of a fire are used to assess the following,

1. If the mixture is explosive or potentially explosive when mixed with air.

2. If the mixture is toxic and what material is burning.

3. If the fire is fuel rich or oxygen rich.

4. In addition, during spontaneous combustion events in coal mines, it is known that certain
“indicator” gases ( for example carbon monoxide, hydrogen and ethylene) are emitted at certain
rates and in certain ratios depending on the fire temperature and oxygen concentration in the
atmosphere, refer Spontaneous Combustion Of Coal, module 5.3.

5. A trend of these four parameters with time is developed to interpret the progression of combustion
and provide an indication of the size and intensity of the fire.

The gas indicator ratios described by Cliff et al 1998 chapter 5.0, are designed for fires in which coal is
the primary source of fuel. However, the principle of monitoring oxygen and carbon monoxide makes
and ratios can also be used to monitor the progression of a fire when a large amount of carbonaceous
material (timber) is involved.

The Jones Trickett ratio and the hydrogen/carbon ratios (Cliff et al ,1998) can be used to identify the
fuel being consumed, however care needs to be applied when using these ratios as they will vary
enormously with the combustion stoichiometry (ratio of fuel to air).

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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4.0 DETECTION OF MINE FIRES


Mine fires are detected by two fundamental methods, namely detecting products of combustion or
detecting increases in temperature, refer Table 4.1 and Cliff et al, 1998 chapter 5.2 for further details.
In either case, the objective of monitoring systems must be to provide the earliest possible warning of
a developing event.
Table 4.1 Methods Of Detecting Mine Fires

Products Of Combustion Change In Temperature


Sense of smell Direct measurement of air temperature
Visual signs – haze, condensation or smoke Machine condition sensors
Sensors for gaseous products Remote or handheld thermal imaging
Smoke particulate sensors

Factors to consider when installing fire detection systems or interpreting data are;

Location of sensors with respect to risk – some sources of fire, for example electrical equipment,
may not produce significant amounts of smoke or products of combustion until the fire has reached an
advanced stage and therefore dilution by ventilation will delay detection. In high risk areas, for
example fuel bays, switch rooms or maintenance bays, sensors should be located in close proximity to
likely sources of ignition and protected from high ventilation rates if possible. The design of monitoring
systems should recognise flow paths and patterns when siting detectors.

False alarms – in an attempt to improve the accuracy of sensors, and hence earlier detection of fires,
false alarms may occur when other sources of combustion gases are present. The most common of
these will be diesel exhaust emissions.

Some sensors are available that simultaneously measure oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide or
smoke particles in order to discriminate diesel exhaust emissions from mine fires. An alternative is to
place a delay on alarm in the system so that short term (< 1 min) spikes due to diesel vehicles will not
cause an alarm but longer term increases in gas concentration will.

System Integrity – it is important that fire detection systems continue to provide data during a mine
fire in order to monitor the spread of products of combustion or the fire itself. This information is
invaluable for mine rescue teams and general management of the event.

System integrity can be improved by locating communication cables in areas with no sources of fuel or
though bore holes. Some amount of redundancy or duplication may be appropriate, for example
having general body ventilation sensors on an independent system from those monitoring high risk
locations. Although tube bundle systems do not provide a method for early detection of fires, they can
provide a relatively robust method of monitoring the development of a fire over a longer period of time.
Again, consideration needs to be given to location of tubes and their integrity in the event of fire or
explosion.

Alarm Response – should be pre determined, documented and unambiguous. Alarm or action
response plans will normally take the form of a management plan that details who, how, why and
when certain actions will be taken. It is in this context that the ventilation engineer plays an important
role in the interpretation of available data and prediction of likely consequences. Trigger levels should
be determined for each location, taking into account all the above factors.

From single or multiple point alarms, it is necessary to determine

1. Where the fire is.


2. What immediate actions are called for by the plan for the particular location e.g. power off,
notification, check for false alarms.
3. Which areas of the mine will be effected by products of combustion
4. What emergency evacuation procedures are appropriate – some or all of the workforce.
5. By what means the workforce should evacuate if some means of egress are contaminated.
6. By what method and by which route should the fire be tackled.

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Although catastrophic events such as mine explosions or very large fires may significantly alter the
pattern of ventilation, the products of combustion from other fires will typically follow the direction of
ventilation. For this reason, mine ventilation plans must be kept up to date and indicate flow direction
and air quantities.

It is essential that, as part of routine refresher training, the entire workforce is familiar with the
ventilation system, consequences of fire at various locations and their responsibilities in the event of
an underground fire.

The use of gas detection equipment is covered in detail in module 2.2. Detection of Carbon Monoxide
is commonly used to indicate fire in Australian mines, with only very limited use of smoke detection
equipment. Smoke detection equipment is widely used overseas. Some mines use thermal fuses
attached to fire extinguishing systems over fixed plant such as transformers.

The detection and control of spontaneous combustion is dealt with separately in module 5.3.

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5.0 EFFECTS OF FIRES


The type and severity of a fire will determine it’s effect on a mine ventilation circuit although it is
important to note that even small fires can produce copious amounts of toxic gases, for example 1 kg
of timber can produce 80 litres of carbon monoxide.

Products of combustion – create three fundamental hazards namely toxicity, flammability and
reduced visibility.

Invariably the main toxic hazard on the exhaust side of a fire will be that due to carbon monoxide. In
addition, a cocktail of other toxic gases may be present if materials such as rubber tyres (sulphur
dioxide and hydrogen sulphide) or plastics (hydrogen cyanide) are involved. In larger fires, oxygen
depletion will also pose a hazard for workers trapped on the exhaust side of a fire.

Flammable or explosive gas mixtures can be created by the distillation of gases that remain unburned
in fuel rich fires. This is particularly the case for spontaneous combustion of coal when methane,
hydrogen and carbon monoxide are formed.

A severe reduction in visibility may occur on the exhaust side of a mine fire due to smoke particles
combined with condensing water vapour, particularly when rubber tyres are involved. One of the main
problems with emergency evacuation during a mine fire is that visibility is inadequate for transport
vehicles to be used and walking speeds are significantly reduced. There have been a number of
deaths due to persons being disoriented due to low visibility and walking past refuge bays. If the fire
generates sufficient buoyancy then the smoke can flow against the ventilation – for example the Appin
Belt fire in 1979 was detected when smoke exited the (intake) belt drift.

Heat And Thermal Effects – during combustion, heat is produced at a rate dependent on the mass of
burning fuel (kg/s) and the specific energy or calorific value of the fuel (KJ/kg), refer Cliff et al, 1998
Chapter 2. For example, complete combustion of carbon to carbon dioxide produces 33.9 MJ/kg and
incomplete combustion to carbon monoxide produces 10.1 MJ/kg.

At the lower flammable limit in air, the heat of combustion of hydrocarbons is essentially constant with
O
resulting flame temperatures of 1,500 ± 150 K (Stull, 1977). The consequence is that products of
combustion are very hot and of a significantly lower density than air. In addition, air passing over or
through a fire will be heated and also increase in temperature and reduce in density.

Using basic gas laws, and ignoring the change in gas composition, the effect of temperature on
volumetric flow and density is shown in Table 5.1. The consequential effects of low gas density are
shown in Figure 5.1

Table 5.1 Effect Of Temperature On Figure 5.1 Thermal Effects


3
Volume And Density (1.0 m3/s at 1.2 kg/m )
Layer reversals
or rollback
Temp Volume Density
O
C m3 kg/m3
100 1.27 0.786
300 1.96 0.511
500 2.64 0.379
700 3.32 0.301 Hot low density
900 4.00 0.250 Choke effect gas/air mixture

The amount by which air is heated will depend on the size of the fire compared to volumetric flow rate
of the ventilation stream. The buoyancy effect on hot gases can result in layers of hot gas and smoke
reversing against the direction of flow in inclined airways (rollback). In addition to hindering access

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from the intake side, this can propagate the fire and or cause ground support problems due to rapid
thermal expansion of roof strata.

In larger mine fires, where a substantial increase in air temperature has occurred, two further profound
effects are possible. The first is that the expansion of volume to two or three times that of standard air
results in a choking effect. In this situation, although density has decreased, frictional losses
associated with the increased volume of gas and air exhausting from a fire reduces ventilation rates in
the airway.

Secondly, the reduction in air density will have an effect on the “natural ventilation pressure” within the
mine. The effect will depend on the location of the fire and will either work with or against the natural
O
direction of flow. For example, if air is heated to 300 C in a downcast shaft fire and the mine is 200 m
deep, the potential buoyancy effect is 9.81 x 200 x (1.2 – 0.511) = 1,351 Pa. Large fires therefore
have the potential to completely reverse the direction of primary ventilation circuits.

Secondary effects - As well as these obvious effects there are a number of secondary impacts that
mine fires can have.

Fires can destroy communications equipment and communications lines, isolating sections of the mine
and preventing effective escape, rescue and control of the fire. Where possible, communications
systems should be duplicated and use different paths around the mine.

Fires have also destroyed monitoring equipment making detection and interpretation very difficult. If
the mine atmosphere cannot be determined Mines Rescue Personnel will be severely hampered in
any rescue or fire fighting. Again duplication and separation of systems is advised.

Trunk belt fires have destroyed both communications and monitoring systems and disrupted all
communications inbye the mine.

Extreme heat will also damage and weaken roofs and other structures. Fire can destroy roof support.
Roof falls will disrupt the ventilation and cause additional difficulties in escape, rescue and fire fighting.

Personnel may be caught inbye the fire creating escape and rescue problems. These problems can
be exacerbated if there is no secondary escape path or if the primary escape route – often the return,
is full of smoke.

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6.0 FIRE FIGHTING AND CONTROL


In the event of an underground mine fire, two fundamental activities are undertaken in parallel. Firstly,
evacuation of the workforce to safe locations and, secondly, implementing means of fighting or
controlling the fire. Both activities require rapid, unambiguous response and it is therefore essential
that suitable equipment, resources, procedures and training are already in place based on legislative
requirements and site specific risk assessments, MRB 1997, Cliff et al, 1998 chapter 6.0.

The following section summarises methods of fire fighting and control commonly employed in
metalliferous and coal mines. It is emphasised that appropriate expert advice should be sought and all
pertinent regulations considered when planning a mine site’s fire fighting requirements. Once
established, it is important that periodic emergency exercises are carried out to test performance and
maintain familiarity with the systems.

Handheld fire extinguishers – of an appropriate type (water, carbon dioxide, foam or dry powder)
should be readily available in workplaces with the workforce trained in their use. Mobile diesel
vehicles may also be fitted with automatic fire suppression systems.

Mains water – secure water lines of sufficient capacity should be made available together with
suitable hoses and nozzles. Consideration should be given to the number and location of manifolds
together with provision of a ring mains to provide for damage or isolation of pipe sections.

For example, the NSW Coal Mines Regulations (Fire Control – Underground Mines) Regulation 1984,
provides the following specification for a mine’s fire fighting water supply;

♦ a mine supply of at least 200,000 litres that can be delivered at 35 l/s.


♦ steel supply pipes of at least 100 mm diameter in main roadways and 75 mm in other road ways.
♦ delivery of water at 7 l/s and 700 kPa without the need to start auxiliary pumps.
♦ a method of pressure reduction to maintain a flow pressure below 1700 kPa at hydrants.
♦ sectionalised so that each section is capable of having pipes inserted or removed.
♦ have test points located at intervals of 30 m of vertical depth to enable pressure and flow rates to
be measured.
♦ hydrants with at least 60 mm diameter outlets and approved threads at intervals not exceeding
100 m and at every place requiring a fire depot (drive heads, fuel bays etc).
♦ 25 mm diameter outlets at 30 m spacing in conveyor roads.

If not prescribed by legislation, similar specifications should be developed at mine sites to ensure
conformity of fittings and security of supply commensurate with the degree of risk faced.

Expanding foam (Bird et al, 1999)– is generated by introducing a foaming agent and stabilising
compound to water supply feeding a spray nozzle, using low expansion foam for small applications, or
mobile fans with high expansion foam for large applications.

Low expansion foams are suitable for smothering fuel fires. The foam solution is added at about 2.5%
with an expansion of 10:1. This means 1 litre of solution mixed with 40 litres of water would produce
400 litres of foam.

High expansion foams contain bubbles with an air to water ratio 100:1 to 1000:1. As moist air within
the bubbles is heated, it expands in addition to the producing of water vapour. The combined effect is
that, at a ratio of 1000:1 1000 l air will produce 3000 l of air – vapour mixture.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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Sealing, flooding and inertisation – are methods for extinguishing fires by isolating large sections of
the mine and then controlling conditions within the sealed environment. These issues are dealt with in
more detail in Spontaneous Combustion Of Coal, module 5.3, however the general principles are as
follows;

The objective of sealing areas is to prevent oxygen reaching the fire and therefore extinguish it by
smothering. In coal mines, worked out areas (goafs) are commonly sealed in any event in order to
promote an inert atmosphere as a primary control against spontaneous combustion. In metalliferous
mines, the technique may be employed to control large worked out timbered areas but for other fires
the main disadvantage is that access is lost to the area in question.

Flooding can be used either to submerge a fire or by creating effective seals in low lying sections of
airways. The objective is to quench or smother a fire, but as with sealing, access to the flooded area is
lost. Effective flooding is dependant upon the topography of the area of the fire.

Inertisation involves the introduction of an inert gas (N2 CO2 or combustion gases) to displace oxygen
and therefore inhibit or prevent combustion. This technique is generally confined to coal mines where
it is necessary to control the atmosphere in large inaccessible worked out areas. Inertisation has been
used to great effect in controlling fires in South African gold mines. Inertisation can be enhanced by
introducing the inert gas combined with a low expansion foam. Inertisation is dealt with in detail in Cliff
et al, 1998 and Cliff et al 1996. In recent years preventive inertisation has been introduced in some
Queensland underground coal mines, where low flow inertisation is used to maintain and inert goaf
atmosphere during and after mining a panel. It can be used to provide a barrier between fresh air and
goaf gases (including seam gases).

The logistical requirements for inertisation are not trivial and those mines intending to use it must be
prepared with suitable injection points, and adequate power and water supplies. All Queensland
underground coal mines are required to have portal facilities to enable the use of the high volume jet
engine based inert gas generator system that is maintained for emergency use by the Mines Rescue
Service of Queensland. This IGG requires significant a significant water supply and consumes larges
amount of aviation gas. The NSW MRS in conjunction with BOC maintain MINESHIELD system which
vapourises liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide at medium flow rates. This system requires a fleet of
tankers to keep up the supply of liquefied gas from the source in Newcastle to the mine site. A
number of mines include the provision of pipes through seals in case inertisation is required.

Inertisation makes gas monitoring difficult and interpretation of the state of a mine fire very difficult.
The temperature of injection of the inert gas and its density relative to the location of the fire and the
topography, will affect its ability to control the fire. There have been a number of instances where inert
gas has been injected with no effect due to it being too buoyant to reach the fire or not buoyant
enough.

Care must also be taken when applying inertisation that it does not create unwanted ventilation circuits
or push flammable gas over an ignition source.

A further concern can be the leakage of inert gas out of sealed areas into the active working areas
causing depletion of oxygen and irrespirability.

Ventilation control – meaning to change ventilation capacity or direction during an active mine fire is
an action that must be considered very carefully, McPherson, 1993. The ventilation circuit employed at
the mine will already have in place stoppings, regulators, doors and fans that determine the
distribution and volumetric capacity of the circuit. Prior to the fire, surveys, network simulation and
operational experience allows the ventilation engineer to predict performance of the circuit with some
degree of confidence. This may not be the case due to thermal effects of the fire, or if alterations to the
circuit during emergency egress have been made.

Changing ventilation circuit settings during a fire may effect;

♦ Combustion process – if by changing the direction of airflow, less air is supplied to an open fire it
may change from oxygen rich to fuel rich and increase the risk of explosive gas mixtures being
distributed through the mine. Alternatively, suddenly introducing oxygen to an already fuel rich fire
may result in an immediate explosion.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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♦ Direction and rate of propagation of the fire - It is also the case that ventilation velocities may
be causing flashover and rapid propagation of a fire. In this case, reducing air velocity, but
maintaining a fuel rich fire may be the best solution.

♦ Methods of preventing wide spread distribution of products of combustion, clearing means of


egress or providing access to trapped workers should be considered. For example, fuel bays may
have temperature sensitive automatic doors that open ducts to return airways in the event of a fire.

♦ Pressure differentials– changing ventilation rates in all or part of a ventilation circuit will alter
pressure differentials and hence the magnitude or direction of leakage through stoppings. This is
particularly true if booster fans are employed. Consideration needs to be given to the effect on the
distribution of products of combustion resulting from these changes.

It should also be remembered that most doors self close under ventilation pressure. Reversal of
direction may result in high leakage rates through doors and hence not achieve the desired effect.

♦ Ventilation in other parts of the mine – in larger, more complex mines, changes to one part of
the circuit may have an un quantifiable effect on others. Problems may arise if changes are made
while workers are still in the process of evacuation.

There may be a requirement to modify the ventilation in order to allow rescue teams to operate or
approach the fire. Controlling ventilation circuits in mines can be a complex task under normal
conditions, let alone during an emergency. Therefore, it is essential that emergency plans include pre
determined methods of undertaking such ventilation changes and under what circumstances they will
be made. In this respect, it is important that monitoring is maintained and means of communication are
established so that decisions made on surface are appropriate for prevailing conditions underground.

6.1 Evacuation And Refuge


A means of notifying the workforce that an emergency situation exists must be established as part of
the mine’s emergency preparedness plans. These may be by individual communication using the PED
system, area alarms, flashing lights, telephone, radios, stench gas or more commonly a mixture of
several methods. Individuals must be trained in their responsibilities and actions to be taken in the
event of such notification. This will ordinarily mean immediate evacuation by a pre determined route to
a specified location to await further instructions or transport to surface.

An important consideration when planning escape routes is that walking speeds are considerably
reduced when a person is under duress, wearing self rescuer and in poor visibility, Kielblock, 1988.
Walking speeds may as low as 1.1 km/h ( 0.3 m/s) for persons wearing self rescuers in reduced
visibility. To assist escape, mines may use guide ropes with fluorescent tags and flashing lights at key
points, for example refuge bays.

In underground coal mines, the second means of egress has historically been placed in return
airways. This practice continues, but legislation recently introduced in Queensland, requires that two
separate intake airways are provided to under ground coal mines. This is principally to protect against
conveyor fires but does have a significant effect on the performance of the ventilation circuit.

6.1.1 Self Rescuers


There are two types of self rescuer, namely the filter type (FSR) or self contained type (SCSR). Filter
type self rescuers remove carbon monoxide, smoke particulates and, to a lesser degree, other gases
(SO2, H2S and NOx) by absorption. Carbon monoxide is converted to carbon dioxide by a catalytic
mixture known as hopcolite. Importantly, the oxygen content of inhaled air is that in the surrounding
atmosphere as no independent source of oxygen is provided.

Consequently, filter type self rescuers are suitable for immediate escape in atmospheres containing
carbon monoxide and sufficient oxygen for respiration (> 16 %). They are not suitable for escape in
oxygen depleted atmospheres or when toxic gases, other than carbon monoxide, are present in
significant concentrations. In addition, the exothermic catalytic reaction increases the temperature of

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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inhaled air with increased carbon monoxide concentration. In very high, immediately life threatening,
O
concentrations of carbon monoxide, temperatures may reach 90 C making the units extremely
uncomfortable to wear. Filter type self rescuers can have a life of 60 to 90 minutes in 1.5 % CO and
weigh less than 1.0 kg. Filter self rescuers are no longer approved for use in Queensland
underground coal mines.

Self contained self rescuers are not open to the surrounding atmosphere and provide an independent
supply of oxygen. The oxygen supply is provided either by a compressed air cylinder or by chemically
converting exhaled carbon dioxide to oxygen using potassium super oxide. Self contained self
rescuers are therefore suitable for escape in oxygen depleted atmospheres containing any toxic gas.
These self rescuers are available in various sizes with operating times of 60 to 90 minutes, however
they do weigh about 2.0 kg.

A new development is the deployment of compressed air breathing apparatus (CABA) in underground
mines. These are being implemented to replace the cached units of SCSRS and to enable in seam
rescue to occur. Recent experience at level 1 emergency response simulation exercises has
highlighted the potential of these units to dramatically improve the ability of a mine to respond to a fire
and control it. Unlike FSR’s or SCSR’s persons wearing CABA are able to communicate verbally.

A common practice is for workers to wear smaller FSRs or SCSRs on their belt during normal work,
with a consignment of larger SCSRs located at designated locations near the workplace. The belt
worn units are used for immediate escape allowing the larger SCSRs to be put on. Further stores of
SCSRs are then placed along the escape route at suitable spacings, 500 m. If CABA are used in
place of the long term SCSR, refill stations are located along the escape route, which allow for rapid
refilling of the cylinders. This has the added advantage of not having to take the unit off to refill.

6.1.2 Refuge Chambers or Fresh Air Bases


The purpose of refuge chambers is to provide a safe location for workers in the event of a fire when
escape to fresh air or other means of egress is not possible. In the event of a large fire it is of course
preferred for workers to be evacuated to surface. However, recognising the extreme difficulty of
achieving this under all circumstances in larger mines, refuge chambers provide a back up to escape
with SCSRs.

Refuge chambers may comprise permanent excavations or mobile units fitted with a secure supply of
air, water, food, first aid equipment and means of communication, Le Roux, 1990, Rose, 1988. Their
primary function is to provide workers with a respirable atmosphere over a long period of time (24 hrs
to several days) to improve the chance of rescue. They are equipped with mine plans and other
relevant documents to assist in evacuation.

In metalliferous mines, the risk of fire may be high but, unless significant quantities of methane are
present, the risk of a large explosion is typically low. In these circumstances, refuge chambers provide
reasonable security for trapped workers. Refuge bays are very common in deep mines where rapid
exit to the surface is not possible and there is little danger of explosion. Miners, in South Africa, have
resided in refuge bays for many days whilst fires have been fought prior to being rescued safely.

In coalmines, the risk of explosion is normally much higher, particularly during a spontaneous
combustion event. Consequently, refuge chambers may provide a respirable atmosphere but the
somewhat emotive dilemma faced by mines rescue teams is to then decide if the risk they face by
going underground is acceptable. Under NSW mines rescue guidelines, MRB 1997, it is not
considered acceptable to send a mines rescue team into a mine, in which lives are at risk, if gas
concentrations are greater than 80% LEL or less than 140% UEL with an ignition source present.

Some underground coal mines are installing refuge bays. Their primary role is to act as a rallying
point, where short term SCSR’s can be changed over to longer term units, in a clean, lit, safe
environment, prior to proceeding on to the surface. Communication to the surface allows critical
information to be exchanged and the best escape path identified. Otherwise, Australian underground
coal mines focus attention on means of complete evacuation to surface. As mines extend in depth and
longwall blocks increase in size (4.0 km+) the use of refuge chambers or alternative inbye means of
egress to surface will need to be reviewed.

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School Of Mining Engineering Underground Mine Environment
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7.0 REFERENCES

7.1 References Underpinning This Module


Cliff et al 1998 “Mine Fires In Australian Underground Coal Mines”
SIMTARS 1998 ISBN 1 876481 00 5

Le Roux W.L. 1990 “Le Roux’s Notes On Mine Environmental Control Ch.14 Protective Measures
Against Irrespirable Atmospheres” Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa

7.2 References Contained In The Course Notes


Anderson, I., Urosek, J. and Stephan, C. 1997 “The Recovery And Investigation Of The Explosion At
The Endeavour Colliery” 6th International Mine Ventilation Congress, Pittsburgh.

Biffi, M et al. 1997 “Fire Fighting In Deep, Narrow, Tabular, Metalliferous Mines Using The Gag 3A
Inert Gas Generator System” 6th International Mine Ventilation Congress, Pittsburgh

Browning, E.J. 1988 “Frictional Ignitions” 4th International Mine Ventilation Congress, Brisbane

Cliff et al 1996 “Spontaneous Combustion In Australian Underground Coal Mines”


SIMTARS 1996 ISBN 0 646 29019 3

Holding, W. 1992 “A Re Look At Explosibility Diagrams” 5th International Mine Ventilation Congress,
Johannesburg

Lang, M. 1996 “Safety Management Plans: Equipment For Use In Escape Plans” Queensland Mining
Industry Health And Safety Conference, Yeppoon

Timko, R.J., Derick, R.L. and Thimons, E.D. 1988 “Analysis Of A Fire In A Colorado Coal Mine - A
Case Study” 4th International Mine Ventilation Congress, Brisbane

7.3 Further References


Bird et al 1999 “ Emergency Preparedness and Mines Rescue” Mine Rescue Board of NSW

Cliff D and Bofinger C, 1998 “SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION A REVIEW, SIMTARS .

D Cliff, C Hester and C Bofinger, (1999) Interpretation of Mine Atmospheres particularly for
Spontaneous Combustion, Mine Fires and Explosions., SIMTARS, Brisbane, Queensland.

Eschenburg H.M.W 1982 “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines –Ch.30 Underground
Fires”. Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa.

Holding W. 1982 “Environmental Engineering In South African Mines –Ch.31 Fires In Coal Mines”.
Published by Mine Ventilation Society Of South Africa.

Kielblock A.J et al,1988 “Self Contained Self Rescuer Performance As A Function Of Human
th
Mechanical Efficiency And Of Escape Route Terrain”. 4 Int. Mine Vent. Cong. Brisbane, July.

McPherson M.J 1993 “Subsurface Ventilation And Environmental Engineering Ch 21 Subsurface


Fires And Explosions” Pub Chapman And Hall ISBN 04122353008

Mitchell D.W 1990 “Mine Fires” Pub Maclean Hunter Ilinois 1990, ISBN 0-92531-10-8

MRB 1997 “Emergency Preparedness And Mines Rescue Guidelines”


Mines Rescue Board NSW GDLN 010797

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Rose H.J.M 1988 “The Introduction Of Self Contained Self Rescuers Into The South African Mining
th
Industry”. 4 Int. Mine Vent. Cong. Brisbane, July.

Sengupta 1988. “Mine Environmental Engineering ”


Pub CRC Press Inc Florida

Stull D.R 1977 “Fundamentals Of Fire And Explosion”.


Published by American Inst. Chem. Eng. AIChE Monograph Series No.10 Vol. 73 New York

Wala, A., Dziurzynski, W., Tracz, J. and Wooton, D. 1995. Validation Study of the Mine Fire Simulation
Model. Proc. 7th US Mine Vent. Symp. Society of Mining Engineers: (Ed. A. Wala) 1995. pp.199-206.

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