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Mining Project: Investigation of Enhanced Refuge Alternatives

Project DetailValue
Principal Investigators
  • Eric R. Bauer, NIOSH, 412-386-6518
Start Date6/1/2011
Purpose

The objective of this research is to develop the knowledge, understanding, and technologies necessary to provide mine workers with the most survivable, post-disaster refuge alternatives available for underground mines.

Program Areas
Keywordsengineering, mine rescue and response, underground mining

Research Summary

Because of the rapid implementation and introduction of refuge alternatives into underground coal mines, it is believed that the most survivable refuge alternatives have yet to be developed and placed in U.S. underground coal mines. This research is designed to develop the knowledge, understanding, and technologies necessary to provide mine workers with the most survivable, post-disaster refuge alternatives available for underground mines.

This project will conduct reseach in the following areas:

  • survivability
  • tolerability
  • engineering design and application
  • training and human behavior.

The need for this research is directly related to the enactment of the MINER Act of 2006 and the resulting implementation of refuge alternatives in U.S. underground coal mines. The fact that no coal miners have used a refuge alternative leaves the industry still not knowing for certain if survival for 96 hours is possible. Anecdotal evidence indicates that older, experienced coal miners will not use a refuge chamber because of a lack of confidence in its ability to provide a survivable environment. On the other hand, younger, less experienced miners indicate that they would go first to the refuge alternative and wait for rescue as opposed to escaping first. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) believes that a number of issues must be addressed if an acceptable level of assurance of survivability is to be realized before the “first” use of a refuge alternative.

NIOSH also believes that a wealth of information could be gained from conducting short-term (up to 48 hrs) human occupation studies in actual refuge alternatives. Human subject testing could provide valuable insight into the survivability of a refuge alternative by providing information on:

  • heat and humidity
  • oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide scrubbing
  • physical and psychological issues

Therefore, the purpose of this research effort is 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. The overall outcome of this research is 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 chambers and built in-place shelters, or to design and construct new, innovative, and improved refuge alternatives of the future. 

 

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