Lightning theory revived

WHILE doubts remain over whether a lightning strike was behind West Virginia’s Sago mine disaster in 2006, the Australian Coal Association Research Program is open to funding research into lightning as a possible ignition cause this year.
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Lightnings ignitions are the subject of research by the Australian Coal Association Research Program.

Blair Price

ACARP is targeting a mix of safety and productivity areas for the 2011 round of underground coal research projects, with the deadline for short proposals due on May 18.

Interestingly, the detection or prediction of ignitions, “including by lightning strikes”, was part of ACARP’s stated underground priorities.

Xstrata Coal has not yet confirmed whether the underground fire at the Blakefield South mine early this year was caused by a spontaneous combustion event.

There are also senior-level views in Coal Services that the fire at the new longwall operation was not triggered by a spon com incident.

Further investigations into the actual cause of the fire will require re-entering the mine, which might be months away.

Last week an Xstrata spokesman told ILN there was no significant change at the Upper Hunter Valley mine, with specialists still monitoring the atmospheric conditions underground.

There is a notable example of the power of a lightning strike on an open cut mining operation in the Hunter Valley.

In early 2008 a lightning strike famously toasted a dump truck at Anglo American’s Drayton mine during an electrical storm.

Three tyres were blown off the unattended truck, while one complete wheel base weighing 1.6 tonnes was thrown about 100 metres away.

ACARP’s 2011 funding priorities are listed below:

Improved health and safety

  • Investigation of key health and safety issues and management practices, including legislative best practice alternatives and risk management as well as tools/approaches (this applies also to the exploration, coal preparation and open cut areas)
  • Detection/prediction of spontaneous combustion, ignitions (including by lightning strikes), explosions, outbursts and strata control
  • Improving equipment operator interfaces and collision avoidance, improved automation and remote control
  • Management of fatigue via reduced exposure to vibration and heat
  • Better controls for airborne contaminants (eg dust and diesel emissions) and noise exposure by attenuation
  • Equipment/operator interfaces to address musculoskeletal disorders with improved ergonomics, less repetitive heavy manual handling and more use of lightweight materials
  • Adequacy and effectiveness of emergency response measures

Higher productivity mining

  • Improvements in roadway development systems and equipment
  • Application of remote control and automation processes to increase productivity and reduce operator exposure to hazards
  • Improved reliability of longwall systems and further development of non-traditional longwall methods (eg top coal caving, thin seam mining)
  • Continuous improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of gas drainage practices is required to support high productivity mining in gassy seams; better techniques to understand and test in situ gas conditions are required

Equipment and mining systems reliability

  • Improvements in the design and uses of equipment to maximise safety, operability, maintainability and energy efficiency
  • Increase the uptime of mining and services processes; in particular, improvements to the design of conveyor systems are encouraged to improve system reliability, safety and maintenance
  • Improving equipment operator interfaces associated with collision avoidance
  • Improved automation and remote control

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