Underground » Health and Safety
Simtars under the auspices of the Queensland Mines Rescue Service and ACARP has been investigating development of a mines rescue/escape Vehicle. This involved investigating the operation of underground coal mine personnel transport vehicles in non standard mine atmospheres.
The first stage of the project resulted in a design specification for a vehicle to assist in the aftermath of an underground coal mine emergency. The second stage of the project involved testing diesel engines in a variety of atmospheres, consisting of up to 4% methane and low oxygen concentrations produced by the introduction of extra carbon dioxide and nitrogen. This second stage proved the feasibility of using normal diesel engines in such atmospheres.
The principle objective of this third stage (ACARP C14024 Mines Rescue Vehicle Demonstration Phase) was to utilise the information gained in stage one and two of this project to modify an existing mine personnel transport vehicle. The vehicle incorporated modifications in the form of extra features including a high-speed methane analyser and a sonic navigation device.
This report describes the development of the extra features installed on an existing mine personnel transport vehicle and the process whereby the vehicle, as a concept, was presented to the mining industry through formal demonstrations, conferences, presentations to manufacturers, interested parties and videos showing its particular capabilities.
Notwithstanding testing conducted during the second stage the ability of a vehicle to function safely, if suddenly exposed to explosive atmospheres, was still unknown and therefore Simtars researchers undertook controlled testing of a typical personnel transport vehicle in explosive methane/air atmospheres. The vehicle was operated safely while completely exposed to the high methane environment throughout the entire test period.
The amount of interest shown in the demonstration vehicle, by industry, prompted the researchers and the Industry Steering Committee to continue with developing the vehicle from a concept to prototype testing at Crinum Mine. It was feared that loss of momentum could jeopardise the chances of the vehicle additions being developed and becoming available as retro fit kits/options on new vehicles.
The next stage needed to proceed on two fronts if this goal was to be realised:
- Prototype testing and further development of the added features.
- Further testing of engines currently used for this purpose under the worst possible conditions of explosible methane concentrations.
Prototype testing has been completed and the concept vehicle has been well received wherever it has been shown. The level of interest shown both locally and internationally is demonstrated by the fact that several mines from countries like the USA and China have expressed interest in purchasing vehicles.
At time of reporting the vehicle remains a concept only. It is imperative that this proceed from concept to reality, as loss of momentum could jeopardise the ultimate goal of the project.
It is recommended that making this concept a reality be championed by all industry as a whole.