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Case study of controlled recirculation at a Wyoming trona mine

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2013, Vol. 334, No. 1, pp. 444-448

Pritchard, C.; Scott, D.; Frey, G.


Controlled recirculation has been used in the metal/nonmetal mining industry for energy savings when heating and cooling air, in undersea mining and for increasing airflow to mining areas. For safe and effective use of controlled district recirculation, adequate airflow to dilute contaminants must exist prior to implementation, ventilation circuit parameters must be accurately quantified, ventilation network modeling must be up to date, emergency planning scenarios must be performed and effective monitoring and control systems must be installed and used. Safety and health issues that must be considered and may be improved through the use of controlled district recirculation include blasting fumes, dust, diesel emissions, radon and contaminants from mine fires. Controlled recirculation methods are expected to become more widely used as mines reach greater working depths, requiring that these health and safety issues be well understood. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted two controlled recirculation tests over three days at a Wyoming trona mine, utilizing an inline booster fan to improve airflow to a remote and difficult-to-ventilate development section. Test results were used to determine the effect that recirculation had on air qualities and quantities measured in that section and in other adjacent areas. Pre-test conditions, including ventilation quantities and pressures, were modeled using VnetPC. During each test, ventilation quantities and pressures were measured, as well as levels of total dust. Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) tracer gas was used to simulate a mine contaminant to monitor recirculation wave cycles. Results showed good correlation between the model results and measured values for airflows, pressure differentials, tracer gas arrival times, mine gasses and dust levels.