Offering safe refuge

COAL mining is a dangerous activity, with high levels of methane in coal seams presenting a high risk of fire or explosions. In China, home of the world’s largest coal mining industry, these risks are heightened by a broad lack of focus on safety precautions in the industry. Every year, thousands of lives are lost in the country’s underground coal mines.
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MineArc is ready to do business in China.

Staff Reporter

Published in the June 2010 Australia’s Mining Monthly

To address the industry’s poor track record, the Chinese government has taken a number of steps, shutting down mines that are found to be at risk and developing standards for companies to meet.

Emergency refuge chambers form an essential part of the emergency response plan for underground mines and tunnels. They protect miners from hazards when evacuation is not a viable option.

With the risks of working underground including fires, explosions, rock falls, flooding and toxic gases, emergency refuge chambers provide a safe go-to area for workers to gather and await extraction.

One supplier involved with the Chinese safety push is refuge chamber manufacturer MineArc Systems.

MineArc chambers contain vital life support systems to sustain occupants for an extended period of time.

These include oxygen supply, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide scrubbing, artificial cooling and digital gas monitoring.

The company produces the only refuge chambers to meet the US Mining Safety and Health Administration’s standard for refuge alternatives in underground coal mines. The MSHA standard will form the basis for China’s refuge chamber regulations.

A modular version of MineArc’s CoalSafe Refuge model already has been certified by the Chinese State Administration of Work Safety.

“We’ve long been confident that we have the safest, most reliable, most advanced coal refuge model on the market in the CoalSafe,” MineArc managing director Geoff Whittaker said. “We’ve now sold or have orders for over 110 CoalSafe units in the US market, thanks largely to the impact of MHSA’s tighter regulations. China from the start has looked to the US in developing its own benchmark.”

To pave its way into the Chinese market, MineArc signed an exclusive China-wide distribution agreement with the Shenyang branch of the China Coal Research Institute.

The joint venture between MineArc and SYCCRI will lead to the formation of the MineArc Safety Equipment Manufacturing Company. This company will service the entire Chinese market from a temporary manufacturing facility in Fushun while manufacturing and office facilities are under construction at a Shenfu City economic development zone.

SYCCRI is a subsidiary of the Chinese government’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. It operates as a safety research and development body within the Chinese coal industry.

MineArc general manager Mike Lincoln has moved to Fushun to head up the joint venture.