Mining Publication: Alternative Methodologies for Evaluating Explosion-resistant Mine Ventilation Seals
The Pittsburgh Research Laboratory (PRL) of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently conducted full-scale explosion experiments; these experiments evaluated the strength characteristics of various seal designs used for safety isolating worked-out areas in underground coal mines. Large-scale explosion tests were conducted within the multiple entry section of PRL's Lake Lynn Experimental Mine (LLEM) employing the only currently accepted test method endorsed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for seal design in American mines. These explosion tests are labor-intensive, expensive to conduct, and can interfere with other critical underground safety and health research programs conducted by NIOSH. Therefore, the PRL has developed an alternative seal evaluation method, based on a hydrostatic pressure loading concept, that can facilitate the in-situ testing of seals in an operating mine. Two chambers within LLEM and one within the Safety Research Coal Mine (SRCM) were used for hydrostatic pressure loading various seal designs. The results from tests in these chambers compare favorably with those from the large-scale explosion tests in the multiple entries. Preliminary size-scaling relationships for predicting the strength of standard seal designs as a function of entry size is also presented. In addition to testing seal designs at the required 20 psi static pressure level, the new facilities also allow for the determination of the seal's ultimate failure pressure. This new approach shows promise as an alternative evaluation method for improving mine sealing technologies which, in turn, will enhance the safety of the underground personnel.