As the Australian summer approaches, a prominent figure in underground mine cooling emphasises the importance of early preparation, especially in the face of persistent manufacturing, workforce, and supply chain challenges.
Mitch Bevan, the Sector Manager for Underground Cooling at Aggreko, is urging teams involved in mining construction, production, ventilation, and planning to gear up for the spring and summer seasons. This comes as the demand for rentals soars, influenced by the unexpected surge in temperatures.
“Despite the global supply chain hiccups, Aggreko remains resilient, thanks to our flexible business approach, extensive equipment inventory, and a team of experts spread across the globe,” Mr Bevan remarked.
Having overseen Aggreko’s Mine Cooling Business for the past four years, Bevan has witnessed the outcomes for mines that are either adequately prepared or ill-equipped for the sweltering heat. He noted, “A single megawatt of permanent refrigeration cooling can cost over $1.2 million, with ventilation accounting for nearly a third of a mine’s total operational expenses.”
He further elaborated on the inherent risks associated with the procurement, setup, and operation of large mechanical units, especially in these uncertain times. Projects are more susceptible to cost inflations and delays, with the latter having a detrimental impact on projected production. Once the facility is up and running, challenges like workforce sourcing and ongoing maintenance arise.
“Aggreko’s cooling solutions for mines are crafted to mitigate these risks. Our services are dependable and user-friendly. Thanks to the modular nature of our equipment, we can swiftly adapt and make alterations annually. Our comprehensive service includes mechanical and electrical system design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance for the entire rental period,” Bevan explained.
In the scorching Australian outback summers, above-ground temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius, a heat that’s intensely felt underground. While safety standards differ across regions, underground temperatures below 30 degrees are generally deemed safe in the mining sector. The Resources Safety and Health Queensland suggests that to avoid heat-related ailments, temperatures should ideally range between 20-27 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity of 35-60%.
The global warming phenomenon is causing temperatures to rise, and Australia has been witnessing unusually warm winters. This is attributed to factors like the emerging El Niño, the positive Indian Ocean Dipole, and climate change.
Although the Bureau of Meteorology hasn’t released its long-term forecast for the November-January period, records indicate that Australia’s climate has warmed by roughly 1.47 degrees Celsius from 1910 to 2021. This has led to more frequent extreme heat events.
Bevan emphasised the importance of mines implementing the right solutions, stating, “Given the warmer winter and predictions of even higher temperatures due to natural weather drivers and ongoing global warming, it’s crucial for mines to act. The optimal strategy for ensuring staff safety and enhancing mine productivity is to delegate mine cooling and ventilation tasks to a trustworthy provider that offers remote monitoring, maintenance, and technological advancements.”
Currently, Aggreko is collaborating with a top-tier miner to deliver a combined power of 4.8 megawatts across two cooling plants at a major Australian coal mine. Bevan highlighted the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of rental cooling plants for coal mining compared to permanent installations.
He concluded, “In today’s market, mine managers and production teams are juggling numerous priorities. Outsourcing mine cooling solutions can alleviate some of their burdens, allowing them to focus on their primary objective: production. It’s certainly advantageous to plan ahead for this summer.”
For further details on Aggreko’s adaptable temperature control systems and how they can benefit underground operations, please visit www.aggreko.com.au or contact 1300 929 031.