Ventilation is a safety imperative for any mining operation. Effective management of mine ventilation has one overarching objective – to maintain the welfare of those who work beneath the surface.

Mine ventilation management systems are rarely a simple amalgam of gas analysis technology and supporting instrumentation. Hazards controlled by mine ventilation include: flammable gases, oxygen content, temperature, fumes, toxic gases, asphyxiants, dust and humidity. There is no universal “silver bullet” solution. Individual sites have unique features, and most demonstrate unique behaviours. A successful solution is more than the combination of components, systems and services.

Mine ventilation must be planned precisely, with performance carefully monitored to enable continued improvement. A typical mine ventilation circuit offers a variety of tools to enable the control of the underground environment. Efficient performance of ventilation fans, airways and flow regulators is essential. Uncontrolled airflows in a ventilation circuit can severely compromise any ventilation system, regardless of its capacity. A sound mine ventilation strategy should include acquisition of accurate, timely data.

Systems to continually monitor gas composition in underground mines have become commonplace over the last decade. Real-time gas monitors, extractive gas analysis (tube bundle) systems and gas chromatographs ensure the ventilation management team has access to dependable accurate information. The application of reliable, accurate “real-time” air velocity instrumentation has been a significant challenge.

Traditionally, accurate assessments of air velocity have depended on manual processes performed periodically. Handheld anemometers used during ventilation surveys provide data that must be aggregated to provide an overall picture of ventilation performance. However, this does not capture conditions within a ventilation system that can dynamically change at any moment, having a detrimental effect on the system. Various technologies can be deployed to measure air velocity in real-time, with varying degrees of success. When selecting the most suitable air velocity meter, consideration must be made of system reliability, simplicity, robustness, convenience, safety and applied innovation.

The SICK FLOWSIC60 sets a new benchmark in air velocity metering. Ultrasonic technology, without a single moving part, ensures maximum reliability with high levels of contamination resistance. Maintenance is minimal, lowering the cost of ownership. The SICK FLOWSIC60 can be simply installed and configured. Designed for a rough life underground, it is manufactured with rugged stainless steel components; even sensor cables are metal-reinforced. The design enables space-saving installation reducing its vulnerability to machinery strikes. The SICK FLOWSIC60 is approved for use in explosive and non-explosive risk zones. Is dual path technology also enables detection of air flows in both directions.

Key to the safety of mining operations is the effective and accurate monitoring of all systems. Persistent, consistent measurement and logging of data will enable more immediate decisions to be made with higher precision. The monitoring of air velocity in single or multiple locations within a mine will clearly identify faults within a ventilation circuit, enabling a response before significant effects on personnel safety, productivity and profitability.