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Living in the Future of Mining at Eagle Mine

living-in-the-future-of-mining-at-eagle-mine
Table of Contents
The future of mining is rapidly growing at Lundin Mining; new technology is used to build operations while upholding excellence in health and safety.
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The future of mining is arriving. Lundin Mining is selectively using new technology to build operational prowess while upholding excellence in health and safety. 

With the health and safety of personnel and the desire to bring operations into the digital realm a pivotal focus to the organisation, Lundin Mining with MineARC Systems to upgrade their emergency response and hygiene underground.

Modernising underground mines is fast becoming the norm as companies seek out more efficient and safer ways to operate. Lundin Mining’s Eagle Mine is no exception; ensuring the safety of underground personnel was a critical driving factor in the mine’s decision to go digital.

Andy Vaughn, Mine Operations Supervisor Eagle Mine Michigan explains how and why the site chose to upgrade and introduce more advanced systems underground.

“Safety is our number one priority. Refuge chambers play a significant role in keeping everyone safe underground. It’s one of those things we hope we never have to use, but the employees here feel comfortable with them underground. Keeping these and other aspects of operations at the forefront of technology is a must.”

Andy Vaughn, Mine Operations Supervisor Eagle Mine Michigan

Site Challenges and Solutions

Challenges

  1. Ensure safety operations align with the company’s vision for a digital future
  2. Extend current equipment into new areas of the mine
  3. Remotely monitor the components within the refuge chamber
  4. Ensure mobile and remote locations have access to hygiene and sanitation

Solutions

  • Remotely accessing refuge chamber data and status via the Guardian Intelligence Network
  • Stench gas for deep mine exploration
  • Portable toilets to improve hygiene underground

Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA, Eagle is an underground mine producing nickel and copper concentrates. Acquired by Lundin Mining in 2013, Eagle commenced commercial production in 2014, extracting approximately 2,000 tonnes per day (TPD).

The Eagle mine is relatively shallow with ramp access from the surface and ramp access to the adjacent Eagle East orebody.

Eagle and Eagle East are part of the same ultramafic intrusive system that hosts high grade primary magmatic nickel-copper sulphide mineralisation.

Remotely Accessing Refuge Chamber Data and Status

Operational, fit-for-purpose refuge chambers are a necessity in underground mines. International regulations and guidelines require a working refuge chamber within a suitable distance of any underground personnel. Due to this, processes within a specific area can be postponed or even shut down if a refuge bay is out of operation; delaying production and affecting daily operations.

Eagle required the ability to access the status of a refuge chamber and view the interior from the control room above ground. GuardIAN Refuge Chamber Monitoring (GuardIAN RCM) was the ideal solution; installed within the MineSAFE Series IV refuge and easily connected to the mine’s network.

Upgrading to GuardIAN RCM was an initiative driven by the site to improve maintenance and emergency operations. Physical and time restrictions make it hard to monitor chambers continuously; however, with a remote monitoring system personnel can access valuable data on the current status. Additionally, any faults within the system are sent via real-time alerts to initiate action.

“We chose to add GuardIAN RCM because it allowed us to add cameras in the chambers; this helped with monitoring usage and during emergencies,” said Vaughn. “It’s also helpful being able to observe a chamber from the surface if any issues arise between routine checks; as you can view and analyse its behaviour.”

Andy Vaughn, Mine Operations Supervisor

Information from within the chamber’s systems is accessed via a secure webpage on any active device. Push notification can send fault alerts in real-time, removing lag time with communications, reporting and action planning.

Connecting GuardIAN RCM to the current underground network involved a simple collaboration between MineARC and the on-site IT and underground communication departments. Each of the eleven on-site chambers has a unique IP address, allowing them to be discovered by the webpage and identified for device management. Once set up, site can view GuardIAN Refuge Chamber Monitoring webpage via smartphone, tablet or computer.

Internal Refuge Systems

All refuge chambers have been upgraded to include Aura-FX Digital Gas Monitoring and CAMS (Compressed Air Management System) to improve operations and safety underground.

The discontinuation of the Honeywell Impact Pro Gas Monitor, the former standard digital gas monitor (DGM) within the refuge bays, pushed Lundin to seek an alternative. MineARC engineers developed Aura-FX DGM, a fixed gas monitoring device, designed explicitly for refuge chambers. The in-built DGM integrates with the GuardIAN Remote Monitoring System, sending gas and temperature information and alerts to the platform. 

Compressed air supply to a refuge bay is a primary source of breathable air and positive pressure. Maintaining the flow can be costly if not properly managed; upgrading older chambers with the Compressed Air Management System (CAMS)  reduced chamber service time and the amount of compressed air consumed by each refuge. Data from CAMS is accessible via GuardIAN RCM.

“Gas detection was a huge upgrade within the refuge chamber.”

Andy Vaughn, Mine Operations Supervisor Tweet

Watch MineARC Systems interview with Andy Vaughn at Eagle Mine

Stench Gas for Deep Mine Exploration

The Eagle East expansion required an extension of emergency alert systems to maintain safety protocol. Stench gas, an olfactory trigger suited to noisy underground environments, was positioned to be dispersed through the ventilation system. Its installation was crucial to operations, particularly in deeper areas of the mine.

The newer section of the mine installed MineARC’s Remote Activated Stench Gas System. Stench gas units within Eagle East are managed and released via a Remote Activation Console located in the dispatch trailer or via a web browser accessible by security and the central control room.

Remote Activated Stench Gas Unit connected at Eagle Mine

Remotely activated stench gas supports up to three redundant methods of operation to suit various emergency activation situations:

  1. IP address and local network
  2. Remote Activation Console,  an optional add-on
  3. Manual release capability if remote communications are lost

Portable Underground Toilets Improve Hygiene

Adequate sanitation underground is critical to the health of all personnel. The layout of Eagle mine and its continuous expansion meant power was not readily available in all locations, e.g. development drifts. Providing the necessary facilities to maintain hygiene standards alongside growth, meant Lundin opted for portable, pneumatic mine toilets to move with its operations.

The EnviroLAV toilet easily transportable, moving with operations throughout the site. Forklift slots allow for easy transportation from work site to work site. Eagle mine has both electric and pneumatic EnviroLAV toilets on-site; choosing to have the electric toilets fixed, while the pneumatic toilets were portable.

EnviroLAV Standard Design Underground Toilet at Lundin Mining Eagle Mine

A portable waste tank and pump allow the site to empty the toilets without bringing them to the surface.

Vaughn explains why improvements in hygiene have been partly attributed to the adoption of the EnviroLAV. “Having a place to wash your hands and more room to clean up compared to the blue rooms (port-a-loos) makes a difference. Also, just having to pump them out annually; we use the portable waste tank and a diesel motor, so the toilet always stays in use, which is really convenient.”

The Future of Mining Continues

Eagle Mine continues to improve operations by adopting sound technology and strong safety culture. Incorporating new technology into on-site refuge bays has reduced servicing time and improved emergency alertness. The changes simplify refuge chamber operations, improving overall understanding and training.

The most significant benefit is the peace of mind personnel feel, knowing there is equipment available, and it is well maintained if an emergency occurs. This reassurance backs Lundin Mining’s approach to health and safety, with the overarching goal of sending everyone home safe – every shift – every day.

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