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Mining Project: Investigation of Enhanced Refuge Alternatives

NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.
Principal Investigator
  • David Yantek, NIOSH OMSHR, 412-386-4498
Start Date6/1/2011
End Date9/30/2015
Objective

To provide the underlying scientific evidence that addresses, minimizes, and, where possible, eliminates the concerns miners have about using a refuge alternative after a mine disaster, and to develop the knowledge, understanding, and technologies necessary to provide mine workers with the most survivable, post-disaster refuge alternatives.

Topic Areas

Research Summary

This project had three research aims, as follows:

  1. Develop improved training and human behavior such that miners will be better able to decide when to seek refuge; enable miners to more effectively activate and operate a refuge alternative, and to be better able to withstand the psychological and physical rigors of a refuge event.
  2. Determine the most effective functioning of a refuge alternative such that the survivability of miners who seek refuge is assured.
  3. Characterize the engineering, design, and application of the refuge system to ensure ease of use, acceptable performance, and a successful refuge experience.

In an emergency, mine workers need to make quick and informed decisions about whether to attempt to escape or to seek refuge in the mine. Specifically, mine workers need guidelines to help them decide when to seek refuge; how to effectively activate and operate a refuge alternative, and how to be prepared for the psychological and physical rigors of taking refuge.

This project research provided the underlying scientific evidence that addresses, minimizes, and where possible, eliminates the concerns miners have about using a refuge alternative after a mine disaster. The research also aimed to develop the knowledge, understanding, and technologies necessary to provide mine workers with the most survivable, post-disaster refuge alternatives.

Two major concerns with mobile refuge alternatives that were investigated by this project include contamination ingress and heat/humidity buildup. Contamination ingress occurs during the process of miner entry into a refuge alternative. After a mine disaster, the mine air could be contaminated with carbon monoxide. If miners would use a refuge alternative, carbon monoxide from the mine air would enter the refuge alternative as miners enter. NIOSH conducted research to determine the percentage of the mine air carbon monoxide concentration that might result within a refuge alternative due to miner entry. Heat/humidity buildup within refuge alternatives is a serious concern because refuge alternatives have a limited ability to dissipate heat, and humans are susceptible to adverse thermal conditions. NIOSH research used in-mine testing of a mobile refuge alternative with simulated mines to represent real miners to examine the temperature and relative humidity that might result in an occupied refuge alternative.

This research can be applied to develop enhanced refuge alternatives that provide mine workers with the best chance of survival after a major mine incident and to ensure that viable options are available to miners in the event of a mine disaster. The research outcomes may be used to retrofit and improve existing refuge alternatives and built-in-place shelters, or to design and construct new, innovative, and improved refuge alternatives.


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