Equipment ranges designed for underground construction work must meet conditions regarding safety, maintenance and operation that go well beyond the demands made of machines working on the surface.
Underground working conditions – including factors such as temperature, mud or visibility – are generally extreme, so an adequate design of the units is paramount.
On top of the operative constraints mentioned above, there are also dimensional constraints: most underground mines have reduced tunnel sections which mean the total size of the equipment working within, and its maneuverability, are of great importance.
The use of inadequate equipment may cause accidents as well as holding up work due to machine breakdowns.
Equipment design must take the following factors into account:
Mobility in reduced spaces
For many tunnel sections, the equipment must have a very low profile, as well as a small radius turn that allows optimal maneuverability in confined spaces.
Crawlers or off-road vehicle tyres for uneven terrain
Crawlers or wide off-road vehicle tyres help distribute the weight of the equipment, preventing it from sinking in the mud.
Given the steep slopes commonly found in underground mines, a low center of gravity, as well as a tilting system and/or stabilizing legs help to create safer working conditions.
Visibility in an underlit underground worksite
Wide windows in the cabin, cameras providing lateral and rear vision, as well as clearance lamps and navigation lights, all help minimize accidents.
Safety: Some fundamental aspects
In order to ensure the operator´s safety, it´s important for driving cabins to be structured against possible rollovers or falling objects in a tunnel, with the corresponding FOPS-ROPS certification.
It’s also key to include a fire detection and prevention system to minimize the associated risks of a fire breakout in the mine.
Air quality in the confined space of a tunnel or mine is of vital importance, with equipments designed to emit the smallest possible amount of polluting substances through catalysts and others.
Temperatures in the mine can vary drastically between 40°C in mines such as Mponeng in South Africa; all the way to subzero temperatures such as the ones commonly registered in Rasvumchorr, Russia. This requires adapting elements such as the start-up system, the temperature regulation system, as well as different types of oil.
Extreme altitude in some subterranean mines such as Uchucchacua in Peru, and the subsequent oxygen scarcity imply the need for engines that can compensate for the loss of power as well as the associated refrigeration defects.
The equipment must conform to strict painting norms to avoid corrosion in the highly acidic atmosphere of a subterranean mine, reaching a thickness of up to 140 µm.
Overall equipment design must allow for easy access service points in order to minimize downtimes. This is particularly important in underground mining, where vehicle and transport passageways must be kept free of obstacles to maintain optimal productivity flow.
Know Putzmeister’s product range for underground mining here.
- Mobility Engineering, accessed 15/05/2016, http://www.mobilityengineering.com.au/services/rops-fops-opg
- Susan Bagley et al., “Impact of Low-Emission Diesel Engines on Underground Mine Air Quality”, in National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Grant No. R01/CCR515831-01 (2002), accessed 15/05/16, page 9, http://www.me.umn.edu/centers/cdr/reports/MiningReport.pdf
- Intelligence Mine, “The World’s 10 Coldest Mines”, 04/01/16, accessed 15/05/16, http://www.mining.com/the-worlds-10-coldest-mines/
- V.I. Demin et al., “Metereological Conditions of Icing of Underground Excavation of the Rasvumchorr Mine”, in “Physics of Auroral Phenomena”, Proc. XXX Annual Seminar, Apatity, pp. 215 – 217, 2007, accesssed 15/05/16, http://pgia.ru:81/seminar/archive/2007/6_atm/deminv_i.pdf