Mining Publication: Methods for Controlling Explosion Risk at Coal Mine Working Faces
At coal mine working faces, simultaneous application of three basic elements reduces the methane explosion hazard: (1) adequate ventilation, (2) regular monitoring of gas concentrations, and (3) the elimination of ignition sources. This paper reviews the application of these elements in a manner relevant to Chinese coal mines. Adequate ventilation is provided by using the mine entries to convey air for the long distances between the mine portal and the working sections (main ventilation systems) and then using line brattice or ventilation duct (face ventilation systems) to convey air the last hundred meters to the working face where coal is broken and removed. The air quantity provided is enough to safely dilute methane and the air velocity is enough to prevent layering. Gas concentrations are regularly monitored in accordance with regulations using knowledge of the circumstances under which the highest concentrations are likely to be found. Ignition sources are eliminated by ensuring that electrical equipment does not ignite methane, that sparking from cutter picks is minimized, and that smoking by workers is strictly forbidden. Risk-reduction studies using fault-tree analysis have shown that large reductions in explosion risk only result from multiple preventive actions. For example, a ventilation upgrade or a methane monitor upgrade by itself offers risk reductions under 50 pct. A risk reduction of 90 pct. or more would typically require much more. Other studies have shown that the everyday vigilance of those working underground is as important as engineering design.