Safety is a core component of the mining industry because of the dangers posed by gases and blasting in underground and surface mines. Detailed procedures, rules and precautions prevent injuries as well as deaths in the mining area. The U.S., for example, has lowered its coal mining death rates substantially by recognizing the common causes of injuries in the field.
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Injuries in the mining industry most often stem from explosions. These blasts are caused by either methane and coal dust explosions or blasting explosions.
Methane and Coal Dust Explosions
Layers of coal contain methane — an explosive gas. Coal’s natural brittleness creates coal dust during the mining process. At a high concentration, the dust can cause an explosion when ignited by a gas, like methane, which escapes from coal due to aboveground explosions or electrical equipment.
Methane and coal dust explosions can trap miners underground. They’re also responsible for some of the largest mining disasters in history, such as the Benxihu Colliery explosion in China, which killed more than 1,500 miners in 1942, and the Courrières disaster in 1906, which led to the death of more than 1,000 workers.
Applications of rock dust, like limestone, in mines and the use of safety lamps act as preventatives against methane and coal dust explosions. Educating workers about the risk factors for a coal dust and methane explosion also serves as a preventative measure.
Blasting is an essential component of mining because of its ability to break rocks and uncover additional resources. When implemented without the proper mine blast protection, however, it can lead to severe and deadly injuries for workers and civilians alike.
Injuries from blasting explosions result from one of four causes:
- Flyrocks: Most blasting explosion injuries and fatalities result from flyrocks. When miners, staff members or civilians — as in the case at a Kentucky mine in 1999 — are within the blast area, they’re at risk for injury. Miscalculations by the demolition team for flyrock distances can also lead to harm. Mines prevent these accidents by using blast mats and committing additional time to calculating projectile distances.
- Premature blasts: Explosive charges that ignite sooner than intended result from a human or manufacturing error. A charge may detonate early due to a faulty fuse or degenerated explosives, for example, or accidental percussion. When these explosions occur, workers may still be in the blast zone. Premature blasts, however, are rare.
- Misfires: A partial or complete failure of the detonating charges can cause injuries when it remains in the hole and is later triggered by digging, milling and crushing at the mine. Inspecting each charge before placement helps avoid these accidents. If a misfire occurs, the mine must stay clear until the charges are removed.
- Mine-induced seismicity: Detonations of explosives can cause an earthquake-like reaction. Mines can collapse and trap workers. Mine-induced seismicity can lead to flooding of the mine and even damage aboveground structures. Active seismic regions, like areas around the Andes Mountains, are at greater risk for this type of accident.
Mining injuries are preventable. Through mine blasting protection like blast mats and other preventative measures, such as inspecting materials and extensive pre-planning, mines can avoid worker injuries or deaths.
Mine Blasting Protection
Making mines safe is an important practice and priority for countries and companies worldwide. Due to the impact a mining disaster can have on a company’s brand, it’s crucial to ensure your team follows and implements a series of safety procedures for a mine’s daily operation.
Our mine blast protection mats prevent flyrock injuries. The steel cable blast mats, which feature a patented design, reduce peak pressures and vent gases. This design component keeps the mats on the ground to trap flyrock and keep your workers safe. They’re also a lightweight and reusable form of mine blasting protection, unlike rubber mats.
Find out more about our blast mats by contacting us today.