Working conditions in an underground mine can be extremely dangerous. There are numerous safety risks that can arise; including rockfall, wet muck, fires, cave structure support collapse, exposure to explosive material, and exposure to poisonous gases. One of the most extensive safety measures PTFI has implemented is the addition of Refuge Chambers and refuge chamber upgrade for safety, located in many different locations in the underground mines.
PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) continue the effort to maintain the motto “Safety First, Production will Follow” in its underground mine operation as the biggest and longest underground mine in Indonesia. For this reason, extra safety measures have been identified and implemented.
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A refuge chamber is an emergency shelter installed in an underground environment. MineARC has developed a standard range of portable refuge chambers that can be positioned and repositioned with ease, providing an ongoing safety solution for dangerous work areas as in complex tunnel networks such as our underground mines. Currently, there are 49 Refuge Chambers; 48 of them are portables which can accommodate a range of between 18 and 30 people and 1 fixed chamber which can accommodate 300 people.
Refuge Chambers are installed with several vital life support systems that provide a safe, breathable atmosphere for occupants for a minimum of 36 hours. These systems include primary and secondary oxygen supplies, air conditioning systems, positive pressure systems, electrical systems, gas detection and CO/CO2 absorption systems (referred to as ‘scrubbing’ systems).
Refuge Chamber Upgrade for Safety
During a meeting with Mulyadi, General Superintendent UG Mine Safety, he explained that prior to the multiple upgrades on already existing Refuge Chambers from an earlier series to the latest Series IV, several Series IV Refuge Chambers were installed in the last quarter of 2015. “These new refuge chambers highlighted the necessity of upgrading the already existing Refuge Chambers” Mulyadi further explained.
On January 21, 2016, two MineARC technical experts started upgrading the 17 existing Series I and II Refuge Chambers to the most recent Series IV. “The previous series do not have voice prompt technology. The latest series is more user-friendly – there is a bilingual voice prompt. This voice prompt goes through each and every procedural step to activate the Refuge Chamber” explained Oo Ye Htut Thant Zin, MineARC Technical Expert familiarly known as Yee. Yee continues on to explain that besides the user-friendly computerized instruction voice prompt, there are changes such as a more compact chemical packaging, and there are reminder alerts for occupants to check on oxygen and gas levels. Overall, the latest series provides a simpler activation system for its occupants.
“These refuge chambers are installed not because we’re anticipating a major accident, it’s here as an extra precaution – this is how far Freeport will go to ensure that its employees receive the best quality assurance of safety,” said Mulyadi. He also hopes that these Refuge Chambers are just provided and never needed to be used.