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Examination of controlled recirculation implementation in an underground nonmetal mine

Mining Engineering , 2014, Vol. 66, No. 12, pp. 49-55

Pritchard, C.J.; Scott, D.F.


Controlled recirculation of ventilation air in underground metal and nonmetal mines has the potential to improve airflow and the health and safety of miners when implemented properly. Previous research by Robinson, Marks, Cecala and others concluded that the success of a district recirculation system is predicated upon an adequate supply of fresh air and the use of a reliable monitoring system for safe operation. This recent research also showed that contaminant levels will not exceed pre-recirculation levels, and that district recirculation can improve the dilution of face contaminants, especially methane gas. 

  To illustrate the process of implementing controlled recirculation and also to promote and give guidance to mine operators in consideration of this tool to improve mine airflow, Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) researchers acquired baseline airflow and contaminant data from a multi-level room-and-pillar nonmetal mine and used commercial ventilation network software to simulate base case conditions and recirculation of mine air. Mine return air baseline contaminants of dust and diesel particulate matter were at lower levels than intake air, providing the potential for improved face air quality. A ventilation model implementing controlled recirculation was developed and analyzed, showing an increase in air quantity at the face, improved intake air quality, and contaminant exposure levels below those set by statutory requirements. These results, along with conclusions reached by previous researchers, provide the basis for examining the safe and effective implementation of controlled recirculation in metal and nonmetal underground mines using this mine as an example.