Ensuring a continuous supply of fresh air to the operating face of any underground mine is critical. Typically, this is achieved through the use of auxiliary fans and ventilation tubes.
And when Rivers Carbon (Carbon Tech Mining's Joint Venture partner with Triac Composites) was asked to manufacture ventilation tubes in carbon fiber for Oaky Creek Coal Mine in Queensland, Australia - it went on to win the Queensland Mine Safety People's Choice Award in 2012.
Previously, the ventilation tubes at Oaky Creek were made of fiberglass and this posed a number of challenges for the operators. For example:
With each of the 2.5-3.0m lengths of fiberglass tube weighing more than 30kgs, manually suspending them from the roofs of underground tunnels was a safety hazard for workers;
The fiberglass tubes would regularly "splinter" and shards of fiberglass would cause significant hand injuries to workers; and
The tubes would distort and collapse in situations where increased air pressure was required for the longer ventilation circuits.
The negative impacts of these fiberglass tubes included:
Production delays caused by injuries and time taken to install tubes;
Ventilation issues; and
Limits to the distance of tunnels that miners could safely work in.
Carbon fiber offers a fresh alternative for ventilation tubes
Carbon fiber has an extremely high strength to weight ratio that rivals that of steel and was considered to be an ideal material for the ventilation tubes.
For example, the new carbon fiber ventilation tubes:
Weighed just 9kgs, compared with the 30kgs of the original tubes;
Were pressure-rated to over 50kPA. by way of a benchmark, this offered a safety factor of 6:1 as the maximum pressure exerted by the auxiliary fans was just 8kPA;
Are durable and will never splinter into shards;
Have a longer life expectancy;
Use fewer raw materials;
Have a smaller environmental impact; and
Require a reduced effort by personnel who are manually installing and relocating tubes which results in fewer injuries
The evidence supporting the claims of superior performance
As detailed in the video above, analysts examined the 2006-2009 data for all workplace injuries at the Oaky Creek Coal Mine and found that:
4 per cent of all Medical Treatment Injuries were attributable to ventilation tubes;
20 per cent of all Restricted Work Injuries were attributable to ventilation tubes; and
12 per cent of all Lost Work Injuries were attributable to ventilation tubes
The new carbon fiber ventilation tubes were introduced into Oaky Creek in November, 2010. Since that time (and the time that the video above was produced), no workplace injuries have been recorded.
This is an outstanding endorsement of the use of carbon fiber in ventilation tubes.
And Rivers Carbon was a very deserving winner of the Queensland Mine Safety People's Choice Award in 2012.
PRESS RELEASE– Mining Industry Targeted with Launch of Carbon Tech Mining, (JV between Triac Composites and Rivers Carbon), Triac Composites' website, 26 February 2019.
Oaky Creek, Glencore Australia website
Corporate video above commissioned by Oaky Creek