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A Real Time Monitoring Approach for Underground Mine Environmental Quality

The underground mining environment is undoubtedly harsh. Confined spaces, minimal ventilation and underground vehicle emissions can compromise air quality underground. A system that monitors environmental air quality underground is critical for the health and safety of employees. As mines continue to go deeper underground and embrace new digital technologies, the primary goal is to ensure the safety of the underground miners as well as the safety of the environment.

Underground miners work in challenging conditions and are constantly exposed to toxic gasses. To ensure the health safety of underground miners, Insig Technologies has designed the Environmental Quality Management System (EQMS) which detects and monitors toxic and flammable gases in underground mining shafts from the surface. The system enables remote monitoring of toxic gas levels following detonation of explosives. This monitoring allows for safe entry for personnel following detonation of explosives in an underground mine. The system can also reduce re-entry wait times than current procedures, thereby potentially increasing overall mine production. The system can be fitted with a number of sensors that can measure air flow, wet bulb and dry bulb, allowing ventilation officers greater insight into how the ventilation system is working. This also meets regulatory requirements by producing daily, weekly, and monthly ventilation reports. The system can also be remotely monitored from an above ground office allowing workers to check air quality from the surface and is built upon a mines existing data network.

Through the implementation of Insig Technologies Environmental Quality Monitoring System, a customer focuses on improved safety from toxic gas exposure of underground employees and Increased production due to an increase in mining operation.

Environmental Quality Monitoring System
Each of these units, which each have five separate sensors, can be set up in various locations throughout the mine to monitor the environment quality underground.

Improved safety from toxic gas exposure of underground employees

Underground mining operations can have a significant environmental impact. There are often multiple conditions that must be monitored to ensure environmental compliance. Air quality and pollution represent one area of concern for mining operations. According to the Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS), mine operators have reported around 325 incidents per year of the presence of potentially harmful gas since 2011. On average, 278 of these reports occurred at underground mines. Around 20 incidents a year involve workers being affected by toxic gas or fumes. The World Health Organisation raised the status of diesel engine exhaust to a Grade 1 Carcinogen in 2012, after it was revealed that long-term exposure to the fumes was a cause of lung cancer, especially in underground miners.

The two most dangerous gases in an underground mine are nitrogen oxide, generated from explosive blasting, and carbon monoxide, from trucks and other mining equipment using internal combustion engines. EQMS Measures the concentrations of five gases in real-time (with other gases available on request), for a reliable environmental quality monitoring:

- Oxygen (O2)

- Carbon monoxide (CO)

- Carbon dioxide (CO2)

- Hydrogen sulfide (H2S)

- Methane (CH4)

With many gasses being odourless, colourless and tasteless, which could be deadly in an enclosed underground environment, a gas monitoring system like EQMS is potentially lifesaving due to its ability to accurately monitor underground toxic gas levels.

Increased production due to an increase in mining operation.

On average, underground mine workers take up to an hour manually checking air quality after blasting by driving to various locations in the mine with a gas detector. Mining regulations prevent any re-entry to take place for at least 30min after blasting. A recent example within a WA mine that actively used the EQMS system demonstrated that gas levels dropped to safe levels within the drive 12 minutes after the blast. This was coupled with the remote control of the ventilation fan which enabled ventilation to be initiated directly after the blast. Shorter wait time allows for faster re-entry to production areas of the mine. By allowing a work force to re-enter a blasted area when it is safe to do so, mining activities can get under way sooner and in a safe manner. Production can significantly be increased over a week, month and year just by picking up an extra hours work per day.

In Conclusion

Insig Technologies has designed the Environmental Quality Management System (EQMS) which detects and monitors toxic and flammable gases in underground mining shafts from the surface. EQMS is a custom built system designed to be used in harsh working environments to increase safety. By using robust gas measuring sensors coupled with a control box and remote integration, it is now possible to monitor actual gas and oxygen levels after a blast to determine when it is safe to re-enter a blasted area. Automatic alerting can also be integrated to ensure that operators are aware at all times what the air quality is within their operations.

EQMS can be set up at various locations within the mine to monitor the underground air quality. Additionally, when EQMS is integrated with Insig Technologies Ventilation on Demand (VoD) technology, your primary and secondary ventilation systems are managed automatically to optimise airflow and reduce ventilation costs.


Of course you are! Please contact our team here to learn more about how this product can drive your business to the next level.

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