MineARC has developed a Compressed Air Management System (CAMS) Flushing Airlock designed specifically for permanent refuge shelters in the South African market in order to address safety concerns and the issue of rising compressed air costs. The CAMS Flushing Airlock regulates and purifies compressed air going into a permanent refuge bay, while at the same time, sealing off the refuge from the ingress of potentially harmful contaminants during an emergency.
News from South Africa’s electricity supplier Eskom that they are planning yet another price increase of 9.4% this month has put the mining industry under further pressure.
Eskom’s price augmentation has been relentless and far beyond South Africa’s inflation markers for several years now; starting in 2008, when load sharing was introduced to alleviate demand on South Africa’s under-prepared grid. During this period and until 2011 Eskom raised the price of power, in real terms, by a staggering 78%, and yet the price hiking did not stop there. Since 2011 Eskom has annually increased power prices far beyond CPI for both domes¬tic and industrial markets. From 2013 to 2015 the average price increase per annum has been 12% (8% for domestic and 13% for mining).
There does not appear to be any regulatory control over Eskom’s price hikes. Over and above the stagnant investor market and the deflated commodity prices, the mining industry has had to look inwards for savings and optimisation in order to survive the cost increases. Many mining leaders such as Anglo America are frustrated, as they see previous successful cost-cutting efforts yet again swallowed up by the added costs this most recent announcement will incur.
One key demand on many mining operations’ power supply is compressed air. Compressed air is used on many underground sites both to power tools and also to ventilate mine shafts. As compressed airline systems can be complex and wastage can occur due to a wide range of factors, optimising compressed air on a mine site is an important and very effective way to dramatically reduce a company’s bottom line.
The best way to optimise compressed air costs is to identify where the greatest usage exists and regulate it. A key area for optimisation is in mine air supply for underground refuge facilities. Running unregulated compressed air directly into a Permanent refuge bay full time is common practice in South Africa. Not only is this practice extremely dangerous, it is also very wasteful.
The combined use of an airlock with CAMS flushing provides two major benefits. The Airlock enables the refuge bay to be a sealed, controlled environment, ensuring smoke or toxins cannot enter the chamber. Meanwhile, CAMS regulates the flow of air, allowing the airlock to maintain positive pressure without excessive compressed air wastage. When measured over a year, CAMS has been shown to save up to 90% of air costs per refuge. On larger mine sites this amounts to considerable financial savings.
Aside from compressed air management, one of the major benefits of CAMS is its four-stage filtration process. Unfiltered compressed air can be extremely hazardous to occupants’ health during an emergency. Even if the airline is not compromised, hydrocarbons, oil vapour and other hazardous particles from diesel fumes and other sources common on mine sites can be drawn in through the compressed air intake and condensed to dangerous levels within the refuge.
In addition, CAMS is equipped with an air toxicity monitor and safety shut off valve. The system monitors oxygen levels in the compressed air and measures displacement of oxygen by other gasses. If O2 falls below standard levels, the safety shut off system automatically activates, ensuring the safety of occupants from toxic gas ingress through the airline.
Once occupants have passed through the airlock and entered the refuge area, mine air is then diverted into the main chamber, enabling occupants to benefit from CAMS’ unique operational features.
It is rare for a product to offer both improved safety and dramatic cost savings, however, MineARC’s CAMS Airlock Flushing System does just that. Not only does the system pay for itself in a short period of time, but it then continues to put more money back into the mine sites pocket by reducing costs, while at the same time providing them with peace of mind that they are providing their workers with state of the art safety equipment.