STRATACONNECT™ NETWORK SOLUTIONS AND GAS DETECTION
Anyone operating a mine understands the vast amount of energy consumption and associated cost that are involved with adequate and safe ventilation. This standard line-item in the operations budget can now be significantly reduced thanks to Strata Worldwide’s automation technology.
The Problem – High energy consumption and costs to the mine
A partner mine, Guanaco Compañia Minera (Mina Amancaya), operated by Austral Gold in Chile, was operating a large-scale underground mine with industry standard ventilation equipment.
Even though harmful gas levels would fluctuate and the number of diesel vehicles in the working section would vary, the ventilation circuit was operating at a constant steady-state to always ensure a healthy supply of air was available.
Due to this high-level of fan activity, the mine’s daily output of energy was consistently measuring around 1,380 kilowatt-hours. Management was looking for an economical solution to reduce the power consumption and resulting energy costs.
The Solution - StrataConnect™ Ventilation Automation and Control (VAC)
Teamed with its qualified Chilean distributor, Catanoor, Strata delivered a network solution to fully automate the operation of the mine’s ventilation circuit. The automation and control system is configured to automatically adjust the speeds of the primary fans and activate the secondary fans based on specific factors: these include, gas levels in the environment; the number of people in the working area, and the number of vehicles in the working area; particularly diesel-powered machines.
“The configuration of the ventilation based on these factors is fully automated, adjusting automatically as factors change,” according to safety electronics VP Rob Albinger. “As harmful gas levels rise, or the number of people and/or machinery in the working section increases, the automation system increases the speed of the primary fans. As levels and numbers decrease, the system decreases the fans’ outputs. Secondary fans are only initiated when factors exceed pre-set levels and power down as soon as levels drop.”
The automation of the underground system is operated via the StrataConnect server located at the surface control room. Data readings from underground streams over the network and are displayed on a graphical user interface, enabling mine operators to actively monitor the underground environment as well as pull data reports with daily histories. A built-in fail-safe feature allows operators to override the automation and stop and start the fans remotely as needed.
Following the installation of the StrataConnect™ VAC, Guanaco Compañia Minera reported a 21% savings in costs and energy in the first month of operation.
Expanding on Safety
Guanaco Compañia Minera elected to install StrataConnect Wireless throughout the mine, establishing complete network coverage for daily communication and location tracking.
Crews at the mine are outfitted with tracking tags that provide real-time status and location data, as well as critical alert and response functions. Foremen carry the MC2, or Miner Communicator Gen2, which functions as both a communication and location tracking device. Peer-to-peer and group text messaging, as well as communication to and from the surface, are standard functions. Underground miner location lookup is a safety feature unique to the system.
Asset trackers have been installed on mine equipment and these provide status and location tracking for the machinery. Data from these devices provide valuable statistics for productivity analyses and fleet management. A supplemental benefit is the elimination of time and money spent locating lost equipment. All system tracking is accurate to within 60 meters (200 feet).