Category Archive: Underground Mining

Diesel Powered Equipment: Underground Mine Safety – The Role of Insulation.

Firwin Industry Series – Underground Mining

From scoops and scalers to pallet handlers and personnel carriers, underground mining relies on diesel-powered equipment to get the job done. Diesel power provides the mine with a rugged, reliable, and cost effective energy source; overall, diesel accounts for 72 percent of the energy used by the mining sector.* With developing economies such as China and India fueling demand and contributing to record high prices for aggregates, precious metals, and other natural resources, mining equipment manufacturers are experiencing an increasingly strong demand for diesel powered vehicles that can extract, load, and transport.

(* Diesel Service and Supply website, Industrial_Industry_Usage)

Diesel Powered Equipment in an Underground Environment: The Challenges

As can be imagined, underground mining poses a number of challenges when it comes to the safe and efficient use of diesel powered mining equipment:

•Exposed exhaust and engine components: Diesel exhaust can get extremely hot. With work in an underground mine often taking place within confined spaces, workers are at risk from severe burns from uncovered exhausts and engine components.

•Diesel particulate matter: Exhaust from diesel powered mining equipment must be properly filtered in order to protect personnel from noxious fumes. Fire Safety: Oil from a burst hydraulic hose, or from an engine leak, can start to smoke upon contacting exposed exhaust components.

•High ambient heat: The heat generated by diesel powered equipment can heat up an already sweltering underground environment. Furthermore, it can cause heat sensitive cables and sensors to malfunction.

Meeting the Challenges: How Insulation Blankets Can Help

Blanketing the exposed engine and exhaust components is an important step in meeting the challenges of operating diesel powered equipment. Once properly insulated, ambient heat is reduced, and workers are shielded from burns. A good ventilation system is of course essential in ensuring that hot air is removed and cooler air is brought in, and to remove noxious fumes from the mine.

As regards the latter, pollution control equipment, such as catalysts and particulate filters, are essential in removing much of the noxious material before it leaves the exhaust. Proper insulation can even help catalysts burn exhaust pollutants more effectively by maintaining an optimal high exhaust temperature as the exhaust travels along the piping and into the catalyst.

Standard Insulation Blankets: Why They Sometimes Fall Short

Standard insulation blankets have 2 features which can make them less than ideal for an underground mining environment:

The underside of a regular-issue insulation blanket is typically fiberglass material, which is non-combustible, held in place by wire mesh. While fine for most applications, in an underground mine, oil from a burst hydraulic hose line, or an engine leak, can seep underneath an insulation blanket and lodge in the insulation material. Separated from the hot component by only a wire mesh, this mixture of oil and insulation material can become a fire hazard, the last thing you want in a underground mine.

Standard Insulation Blankets: Why They Sometimes Fall Short

Standard Insulation Blanket Construction

The second limitation of standard insulation blankets is the outer cover. Typically a silicone impregnated fiberglass, the outer cover is designed to be durable and withstand normal wear and tear for years. In an underground mine, however, the confined spaces and potential rock falls can lead to sharp objects coming into contact with the insulation blankets. Not designed to withstand this kind of treatment, regular insulation blankets can be prone to tearing or puncture.

MineWrap™ Insulation Blankets: Designed for the Underground Mine

MineWrap Mark II’s Stainless Steel Inner Liner

MineWrap Mark II’s Stainless Steel Inner Liner

To meet these concerns, Firwin’s R & D department designed a blanket with the specific needs of underground mining in mind. Known as MineWrap™ Mark II, this blanket features a stainless steel inner liner, which seals off the insulation material and prevents any oil from seeping in.

For those applications that require extra strength and rigidity to reinforce its outer cover, MineWrap™ comes in a Mark III version. The Mark III blanket features a reinforced stainless steel foil exterior, which in turn is covered with a stainless steel mesh. Joint safety seals can be added to further seal off any exposed exhaust between blanket sections.

With its added dimensions of increased fire safety and rugged exterior, MineWrap™ has become the insulation blanket of choice for a number of mines and equipment manufacturers.

Firwin Hard Coat: A Permanent Insulation Solution for Underground Mines

Hardcoat insulationSome underground mines have determined that while they need their hot exhaust components insulated, they do not need to have the insulation be removable. These mines have opted for Firwin Corp’s Hard Coat™ insulation system . Hard Coat™ features a durable, lightweight exterior, and is typically applied to components such as exhaust manifolds, turbochargers, elbows, and exhaust piping. Unlike removable insulation blankets, which are wrapped around an engine or exhaust component and fastened with a fastening system (typically stainless steel lacing wire), Hard Coat™ insulation is a permanent insulation applied directly to the component being insulated. This results in the insulation material being completely enclosed and shielded from exterior elements. As such, the danger of equipment oil and fluid leaks that might otherwise seep into the insulation material and cause a potential fire hazard is eliminated.

According to Firwin President Paul Herman, “For certain high-temperature applications where safeguarding for oil leaks is a priority, space is at a premium, and a removable insulation product is not required, Hard Coat™ insulation is a definite option, and may be more economical in the long run.”

“While permanent insulation such as Firwin Hard Coat™ has its advantages, for instance it compactness and durability, there are drawbacks as well”, notes Paul Herman. “It cannot be removed should a part require servicing. The coating must be applied at our factory. It is also more expensive up front than traditional insulation blankets.”

Heat Shield on Engine

Mining exhaust with both MineWrap™ and Hard Coat

Turbo and Manifold with Firwin Hard Coat insulation

Turbo and Manifold with Firwin Hard Coat insulation

Conclusion:

While insulating exposed hot exhaust components are essential for underground mines, it is important to choose the correct insulation solution so that the insulation itself does not add any new safety concerns. MineWrap™ Removable Blankets and Hard Coat Composite Insulation have been designed to effectively insulate mining equipment exhaust components in a manner that encompasses the safety concerns of underground mines.

Underground Mining Safety and Firwin

insulation blanketsThere is no question that underground mining is a challenging and risky occupation. Over the past 12 years, the month of October has been the deadliest month for metal and nonmetal mining operations in the United States. It is with this unfortunate stat in mind that we wanted to talk about the role of insulation in underground mine safety of diesel-powered equipment.

Diesel accounts for 72% of the energy used by the mining sector. This dominate fuel source comes with some unique challenges. The exhaust given off by diesel engines can get extremely hot, and with workspace at a premium underground, this can get dangerous for miners. Additionally, the high ambient heat given off by these non-insulated engines can worsen an already uncomfortable environment.

By blanketing exposed engine and exhaust components, you immediately reduce ambient heat; plus, these same insulation blankets shield workers from burns. It’s a win-win and it doesn’t take a great deal of effort.

Removable Insulation BlanketsOf course, for all of this to work effectively, you need to choose the right insulation blanket partner. This is where Firwin can help. Thanks to their unique stainless steel inner liner and reinforced outer cover, our MineWrap™ insulation blankets are perfect for the rigors of underground mining.

If you want to raise the level of safety in your underground mining operation, the best place to start is insulating your diesel components, and the best place for insulation blankets is Firwin.

Firwin and Chile

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, open-pit mining is a great way to extract minerals and ore from the earth, but it becomes less effective when you start exhausting materials relatively close to the surface. It is at this crucial point that entire industries must make a choice: move on to another open-pit opportunity, or start the more difficult, time consuming, and expensive process of underground mining. This very dilemma is currently playing out in the Chilean copper mining industry. For years, copper mining has been the #1 industry in Chile. In 2000, Chile produced 35% of the world’s mined copper and it accounted for 40.5% of their export earnings, which translated into 25% of their GDP.[1] In 2006 alone, Chile exported $33.3 billion worth of copper. With copper being so critical to the health and survival of the Chilean economy, it is not surprising that their mining industry has begun a very ambitious underground mining project. The state-owned Corporacion del Cobre, the world’s largest copper producer, is planning to invest $3.28 billion in just one project to extend the working life of the world’s largest underground mine by 47 years. 
Because it’s hard to imagine any kind of mining without Firwin’s outstanding insulation and safety products, we recently acquired a new distributor in Chile. By signing up with the experts at Ventas,  Firwin hopes to gain a much larger foothold in the Chilean mining market. The timing couldn’t be better, and we hope that we will be able to help keep a future generation of Chilean miners safe and protected with our wide array of insulation products.


[1] https://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Americas/Chile-MINING.html

Firwin and Mine Safety

 
From August to October of 2010, it was next to impossible to watch TV for more than 10 minutes without hearing about the 33 miners trapped in a collapsed gold mine 2,300 ft below Chile’s harsh and isolated Atacama Desert. The Copiapó mining accident captivated the world even after the miners safely returned to the surface.  It not only highlighted the strength of the human spirit, but it also shined yet another light on how dangerous mining can be. This near tragedy reminded us that even in the modern world, we cannot afford to ignore basic mine safety.
In our last blog, we discussed the basics of open pit and underground mining. Today, we are going to highlight the challenges of both styles of mining and the substantial role that Firwin plays in keeping the mining industry safe.

Open Pit Mining

Open pits, while being overall less demanding than underground mining, carry with them their own set of challenges. As with any activity involving large equipment like multi-ton trucks, loaders, and drills you need to use insulation blankets to shield personnel, cabling, and all heat sensitive controls from extreme temperatures.  However, open pit mining also introduces the problem of excessive sound and vibration.
Many open pit mines across the world are located near population centers, especially in countries like Australia. Therefore, companies have to find a way to effectively mine, without disturbing nearby residents and businesses.  Firwin has insulation blankets that combine both temperature and noise/vibration protection, thus allowing open pit mines to run 24-7 safely and without causing local resentment and structural damage.

Underground Mining

As the world has turned more and more to underground mining, Firwin has started to focus on developing a special line of insulation products aimed at the unique challenges of underground mining. Digging any tunnel, shaft, or adit is difficult, time consuming, expensive, and inherently dangerous. After a good deal of research and testing, Firwin created our proprietary MineWrap™ Removable Insulation Blankets expressly for underground mining.
Removable Insulation Blankets
MineWrap™ Removable Insulation Blankets
Our MineWrap™ addresses some of the less obvious areas of concern of underground mining. It protects again the dangers of hydraulic oils spills on hot engine surfaces, reduces operator burns, limits oil seepage, and can withstand extreme wear and tear. Though not as well documented as cave-ins like Copiapó, these problems can lead to equally as devastating occurrences.
Whichever mining technique our customers utilize, they know that Firwin has the products, experience, and expertise to make the mining process safer, cleaner, and more productive. Furthermore, all of our mining insulation is custom made to fit your specific equipment and our blankets conform to UL2000 standards. If you want to learn more about our mining insulation, visit our website or contact an expert at Firwin today.