Explosion-proof mining toilets

IT’S a sensitive issue, but a convenience that won’t trigger an underground explosion represents a significant, technological breakthrough for the mining industry. Supply Side, by Australia’s Mining Monthly editor Thomas Smith
Explosion-proof mining toilets Explosion-proof mining toilets Explosion-proof mining toilets Explosion-proof mining toilets Explosion-proof mining toilets


Thomas Smith

A visit to the little boys or girls room hundreds of metres below ground can be a tricky business. The risk of explosion is always present.

In terms of safety, it doesn’t get much more critical than this.

Most of us would list the most likely sources of ignition as a dropped lighter, an electrical fire or potentially hazardous electrical contact points would be the greatest source of risk.

No one would think of listing the common toilet as a threat capable of triggering a fire or explosion.

But the toilet’s electrical system has the potential to provide the single spark that could prove catastrophic in an underground environment.

MineArc Systems is better known to the mining industry as a producer of refuge chambers, which provide shelter for workers operating underground.

But they’ve now turned their attention to the design of a mine-safe toilet that won’t spark or trigger an underground explosion.

The EnviroLav Powerless has been developed for use in hard rock or underground coal mines.

At first glance, it looks like a mini refuge chamber. It’s been designed to the same specifications to offer miners the same protection.

But the clever part is the powerless system, which has been designed to eliminate the risk of spark or explosion.

There have been numerous examples of underground mine explosions, often triggered by electrical fires or random sources of ignition.

Lives have been lost and the elimination of fire risk remains among the top safety priorities for mining companies.

Miners will take comfort knowing that the latest technology provides a little more protection in one of their more vulnerable moments of the day.

MIneArc is also proud of the system’s green credentials.

A combination of chemicals and design means it doesn’t need as much attention as traditional systems, in some cases up to 24 months, depending on usage.

EnviroLAV is 100% air-driven. Inside the treatment tank, micro-aeration filters continuously work to break down effluent aided by MineARC’s biodegradable, non-toxic EnviroZYME solution.

MineARC recently received its first order for the EnviroLAV from Anglo American, which plans to install the system in its Grosvenor coal project in Moranbah, Queensland.

James Young is MineArc’s representative for auxiliary products. He said the EnviroLAV system was chosen because of its low-maintenance design, which allowed the toilets to be moved underground easily and frequently, making them ideal for moving portals.

“The EnviroLAV Powerless is a highly cost-effective toilet when compared to other portable alternatives,” Young said.

“It requires little maintenance and only needs to be emptied every 18-24 months, unlike other conventional systems that require a two to four weekly drainage.”

Miners can go to work happy they’re protected and doing their bit for the environment the next time they need to answer the call of nature underground.