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Overview and evaluation of smoke detectors in underground mines

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2011, Vol. 330, No. 1, pp. 358-366

Litton, C.D.


When methods to prevent the occurrence of fire in underground mines fail, the next line of defense is to rapidly and reliably detect the developing fire, so that subsequent evacuation and control procedures can be safely and successfully implemented. To provide this capability requires an understanding of the operational principles of different types of fire sensors, their merits as well as their limitations, and performance characteristics of the monitoring systems that control and process sensor data; an understanding of how fires develop and the different types of fires that can occur, along with their characteristics and the hazards they present; an understanding of the impact of the mine environment and routine mining activities, not only in terms of these effects on fire sensors but also in terms of the impact of mine ventilation and mine geometry on fire growth, fire characteristics and the detection process. All of these factors are components of the technology of fire detection, and when insufficient knowledge of any of these components exists, the ability to implement adequate mine fire detection systems is diminished. Within the last decade, significant advances have been made in fire detection technology applicable to underground mines. These advances include not only the development of improved sensors and better monitoring systems, but also an expanded understanding of how to deploy sensors, set sensor alert/alarm levels, account for ventilation effects, etc. In addition, there has been an increase in our knowledge of the types of fires that occur, the types of combustibles involved, characteristic times for fire growth and development, the levels of heat, smoke and gas that are produced and the hazards that result. It is the intent of this paper to provide not an overview of current mine fire detection technology and, also, to present data obtained for some smoke sensors that have potential for use in underground mines. The paper will also discuss the data, information and resources that are currently available and seek to identify those areas most in need of further research and development.