Keep the pressure up for safety

Paul Boughton

Why it’s vital to keep mine safety at the forefront of the industry

There are few industries as potentially dangerous as underground mining, where safety systems must be built and maintained to the highest standards. Market pressures demand that the productivity and efficiency of mines continue to increase, which puts more pressures on technology to improve safety equipment. Modern longwall mining techniques require a roof support system that maintains a safe working area while moving with the shearer and allowing a controlled collapse of the roof.

A coal mine presents a number of challenges for the designers of mining equipment, and a long list of standards that must be met. The potential for explosive gases means that all mines have an extensive network of gas monitors to warn of any potential risk to life. As a further precaution, any equipment designed to operate in the mine must be certified to work in potentially explosive atmospheres. In addition, the reliability of any safety related equipment must be proven beyond doubt.

Within the mining industry, safety is the highest priority; meaning the selection of equipment for use within a mining environment has to undergo a rigorous process, with sustained testing being completed before operational approval is given. Most countries operate a scheme whereby all safety-critical equipment undergoes design scrutiny as well as on-site testing before it can be specified for operation within the industry.

One such example is the UK Coal Acceptance scheme. The testing period can last for a whole year, during which the equipment undergoes continuous monitoring to ensure that the performance levels remain within necessary tolerances. The certification process is extremely vigorous and only the best equipment is awarded a UK Coal Acceptance Certificate at the end.

The roof support system consists of a series of individual shield units that use hydraulic rams to hold the overhead shield plates in place. All of the units are connected together and powered by a high-pressure hydraulic pump that provides the power to hold thousands of tonnes of rock in place while the coal face is mined.

RMI Pressure Systems is an expert in high-pressure pumping systems. With particular expertise within the mining industry, both above and below ground, many of the company’s most popular products include certifications and approvals from some of the world's leading mining organisations.

The Trimax S range of pumps have been used across the world in many of the largest mining operations. Constructed from the highest quality materials, and manufactured to exacting tolerances, the S range is capable of producing 517 l/min at pressures up to 600 Bar.

RMI also has a policy of continuous development of energy-efficient products, which has led to the introduction of the ODIN (On Demand Intelligence) control system. It uses a range of data supplied from equipment used in the process of continuous longwall mining and uses it to calculate the changes in demand for hydraulic fluid before they occur. In this way ODIN can modulate the pump speed and change the flow and pressure characteristics to meet demand in the most responsive way possible.

Reliability as standard

When asked what inspires his firm’s work, Mike Sherman explains that being dedicated to improving safety is not a recent thing for RMI. “We’ve been helping to maintain mine safety for many years,” he begins. “With the majority of applications in remote areas, with limited access and where unplanned downtime is very expensive, reliability is an essential quality required of our equipment. 

“We have an enviable reputation for designing efficient and reliable equipment, which has been used across the world in the longwall mining industry for many years."