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Mining Program Area: Ventilation

Overview

Mine worker safety and health is dependent on the ventilation system operating properly. Ventilation mitigates issues such as poisonous gasses, harmful dust, and temperature, and maintains a life-supporting atmosphere for workers. Maintaining adequate ventilation also reduces the risk of an explosive atmosphere occurring.

The Ventilation Program seeks to answer the following research questions:

  • Can we quantify the movement of methane gas between existing gas reservoirs (gas-bearing strata, sealed areas) and active mine workings, and what are the effects of such movements on the mine ventilation system? In what ways does the presence of a low barometric pressure event affect this movement?
  • What are the limitations of current longwall bleeder designs for controlling explosive methane levels? Can we develop improved bleeder designs to more effectively handle the increased methane quantities anticipated from larger longwall gobs and gob districts?
  • Can continuous air velocity measurements be used to recognize potential instability of a mine ventilation system, and how can this information help locate the cause and impact of abnormal airflow conditions?
  • In continuous mining operations, can a secondary methanometer located on the mining machine provide improved warning of hazardous gas conditions at the face, and where should this monitor be placed?
  • How can we best use booster fans and controlled district recirculation in metal/nonmetal (M/NM) operations to improve control of gases, such as methane, and airborne contaminants, such as dust and diesel particulate matter (DPM)?
  • Can integrated fan/filter arrangements be used to control harmful levels of dust and DPM at active faces in large-opening operations?

Increasing awareness of underground mine ventilation issues empowers mine workers to proactively address changing ventilation conditions caused by both mining and geological issues.

Highlights

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) has incorporated computer modeling using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), which helps researchers understand air flow in different mining situations: for example, in a continuous miner face or around a longwall tailgate corner.

OMSHR currently has projects in coal and M/NM ventilation and is also funding a project to develop a laser-based methanometer for remote detection of methane gas. These research activities are a necessary addition for effective OMSHR research, because they provide resources in specific program areas outside of our expertise. OMSHR is also funding seven universities to build competency in the ventilation sciences: University of Nevada-Reno, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Colorado School of Mines, University of Utah, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Kentucky, and Virginia Tech.

The program’s significant milestones include designs to improve the performance of longwall bleeders, the integration of data from continuous airflow monitoring into an assessment of ventilation performance, and development of guidelines for using booster fans and controlled district recirculation to improve ventilation in M/NM operations.

Projects & Contracts

TitlePIsStart DateDescription
Continuous Monitoring of Airflow and Methane in Coal MinesAnu L. Martikainen10/1/2011A project to develop guidelines to assess ventilation effectiveness in underground coal mines using improved sampling protocols and defining optimal instrument locations for continuous-reading airflow and methane monitors.
TitlePIsStart DateDescription
Control Technologies and Strategies for Reducing Exposure of Underground Miners to Diesel EmissionsAleksandar Bugarski10/1/2009To reduce exposures of underground miners to diesel particulate matter and gases through implementation of control technologies and better understanding of the risks associated with workers' exposure to diesel engine emissions.
Improving Underground Coal Mine Sealing StrategiesRichard Karl Zipf2/13/2008This project seeks to eliminate disasters from gas explosions within sealed areas of coal mines through improved engineering of the complete sealing process and better education of the mining workforce.
Ventilation to Control Contaminants in Metal/NonMetal Mining OperationsChris Pritchard10/1/2010This project will deliver practices, methodologies, and strategies to the industry to improve ventilation effectiveness in underground metal/nonmetal (M/NM) operations to increase control of airborne contaminants in deep mines.
TitleContractorContract/IAG #Start DateDescription
Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling for Underground MinesColorado School of Mines200-2009-314099/2/2009A contract to expand on previous and existing work with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling using the FLUENT code to develop a modeling and predictive tool for mine ventilation.
Development of a Method for the Remote Characterization of Underground Mine Ventilation Control by Multiple Tracer GasesVirginia Polytechnic Institute & State University200-2009-319339/1/2009A contract to develop a method to remotely characterize undergroundd mine ventilation control by multiple tracer gases.
Development of Dust Control Units for Underground Coal MinesJ.H. Fletcher & Co.200-2010-361649/1/2010A contract to design, construct, and test two new dust collection components for continuous mining operations in underground coal mines.
Safety Aspects of Mine Ventilation Through Technical Development and TrainingUniversity of Kentucky200-2009-306789/1/2009A contract to investigate safety aspects of mine ventilation through technical development and training.
Safety, Health, and Ventilation Cost Benefit Optimization with Simulation and ControlUniversity of Nevada200-2009-301579/1/2009A contract to improve ventilation tasks in deep and hot underground mines to decrease injury risks; improve working conditions; meet occupational, environmental, and health standards; and reduce costs to stay competitive.
Utilization of Booster Fans in Underground Coal MinesUniversity of Utah200-2009-303289/1/2009A contract to research using booster fans in deep coal mines in the western U.S., where coal seams can have over 3,000 ft of overburden causing ventilation and ground control problems. High-pressure fans currently used can create unsafe conditions.
Ventilation of Deep Open Pit Mines with Special Reference to Air Inversion in Arctic or Subarctic RegionsUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks200-2009-319689/1/2009A contract to evaluate and enhance the atmospheric health and safety conditions in open pit mines, with special reference to air inversion in arctic or subarctic regions, as well as increase the number of personnel trained in mine ventilation.
 
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