One of the unavoidable hazards for coal miners is the presence of deadly gas like methane, which in high concentration can cause deadly explosions resulting in fatalities. Coal gas detection instruments, through gauging the levels of gas concentration, enable mineworkers and employers to take necessary action when required. This ensures safety and no interruption to workflow, which results in loss of productivity.
A lot has been made about the urgency to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Nonetheless, the reality is that – wish as we may – coal will still dominate South Africa’s energy mix into the foreseeable future, which means there is still a lot of mining activity yet to take place.
And so long as this happens, safety risks from deadly gases like methane will persist in coal mines. What is of great concern though, is whether coal miners, who are ramping up production, are adequately equipped to deal with rise in levels of methane.
Schauenburg urges coal miners to ensure that they have measures firmly in place to sufficiently manage the risks of methane.
Having gas detection instruments is a necessity and what matters most is their reliability and support from the OEM to ensure a functional gas detection system.
Failure to implement gas detection instrumentation
Failure to implement gas detection instrumentation to detect harmful gasses, can result in fatalities. That is why mining companies should not underestimate the threat of toxic and flammable gases by not using reliable gas detection instrumentation.
An article published in The Telegraph, New Zealand mine explosion: the danger of methane gas, highlights the risks of methane: “Methane gas is one of the biggest dangers to the coal mining industry because the gas accumulates in pockets of coal.
Any explosion caused by methane produces deadly carbon gases, such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.” It must be added that dust particles heighten the risk of explosion.
Particularly, what makes carbon monoxide, which forms after an explosion or fire, lethal are its characteristics: It is devoid of colour, taste, or smell. And once exposed, mineworkers face the risk of carbon monoxide asphyxia.
Unavoidably, in the course of their operations, mining houses are faced with problems on three fronts: a sudden rise in highly toxic carbon monoxide, the inherent flammability of methane, and insufficient oxygen. Understandably, in a accordance with the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA), the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) obliges mines to constantly monitor deadly gases that are common in underground mines.
For this reason, mines must be well-equipped to continuously monitor carbon monoxide and methane levels underground. Methane monitors are able to detect lower explosive levels of methane and transmit concentration readings to management and workers. In the event the level is higher than the threshold, appropriate action is taken.
The significance of a gas detection system in facilitating timely decision-making to mitigate the risk of methane gas explosion and enhance safety should not be underestimated. Not only can an explosion result in fatalities, it can lead to interruption in workflows and downtime due to damage to machinery, a situation that can result in potential loss of revenue.
The GDI Sentinel Gas Detection Instrument for gas detection in coal mines
The latest model in the renowned Schauenburg range of portable gas measuring instruments, the GDI Sentinel Gas Detection Instrument is just what is required for gas detection in underground environments. The GDI Sentinel Gas Detection Instrument’s small and robust enclosure is ideally suited for the harsh South African mining conditions.
Schauenburg’s divisional manager, Willis Blaauw, describes the GDI Sentinel Gas Detection Instrument, as a fit-for-purpose unit in underground gas monitoring.
“With more than 30 years’ experience in South African underground gas detection instrumentation, the GDI Sentinel Instrument was designed and developed to be part of the Mine Wide Integrated Monitoring and Control System (MIMACS).
“The instrument has the ability to transmit gas intersections to the control room from the working face. The instrument can also be used as a comprehensive standalone product.”
Additionally, the Sentinel is equipped with many inclusive features that automates the day-to-day required functions for the users. For example, user testing, calibration and downloading functions are RF based and fully automated.
Based on the MIMACS interface capabilities of the Sentinel in terms of the common RF communication platform, the Sentinel can interface with SCAS II equipped vehicles in terms of interlocking mechanisms when gas is intercepted by the Sentinel.
Blaauw assures mining companies that Schauenburg has the expertise and support to assist in their gas detection instrumentation requirements.