AMSJ » Mine Cooling | Be more productive without spending millions

Mine Cooling | Be more productive without spending millions

Mine cooling solutions

An underground copper mine is safer with dramatically improved air quality without spending a fortune, thanks to a mine cooling solutions provider.

Multinational company Glencore found its CSA Underground Copper Mine would be more productive and economical to operate, if it rented a refrigeration plant instead of buying one outright.

The mine required constant cooling since it operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week to allow it to produce 1.1 million tonnes of copper ore and more than 185,000 tonnes of copper concentrate at its Cobar site, 314km west of Dubbo.

Affordable solution

Temperature control experts from Aggreko were commissioned to lease a customised package to the mine. Through combining fluid chillers, cooling towers and diesel generators, the team engineered a 12 megawatt (MW) bespoke cooling solution that delivers 180 cubic metres of air a second into the mine shaft at just 8 degrees Celsius.

The solution enabled the proponent to free up working capital that would otherwise have been spent on buying a permanent cooling plant.

“Some mines face challenges associated with hotter temperatures and often do not have a permanent refrigeration plant to accommodate this issue because the capital cost is very prohibitive,” Aggreko’s head of temperature control Alan Loudon says. “As a rough guideline for every megawatt of permanent refrigeration cooling a company could pay upwards of $1 million in capital expenditure, so there are immediate savings from short to long term rentals.”

Free maintenance and parts

Since Aggreko still owns the cooling solution, Glencore will not be liable for any costs involved with normal servicing, maintenance or spare parts.

“We look after the cooling and that frees up the mine operation to concentrate on what they do best, which is mining,” Loudon says. “The client can manage costs and service budget rather than having to put a lot of capital into the plant and having to service it over and above the purchase price.”

Special upgrade offers

If Glencore later decides to upgrade its cooling system, it will have the option to replace the equipment for a fraction of the price of buying a new one.

“When you buy outright with capital expenditure you are limited to the technology of the present and pretty much have to stick with that for the life of the mine until you decide to replace it,” Loudon says. “With renting you can evolve your product as the technology changes.”

Underground Mine Cooling – QLD Australia

Having the ability to upgrade the cooling system would make the mine safer and more productive according to Aggreko. An underground mine site with ventilation and cooling systems running at less than legislative guidelines and standards also carries a higher risk of workers suffering from heat exhaustion.

Minimise health and safety issues

Loudon says the risk of underground miners being exposed to health, safety and productivity issues associated with hot climates and hot mines dramatically increases when temperatures above ground put strain on current ventilation heat models.

“When you are hot you are not in a safe situation, safety is compromised, historic data confirms that productivity drops and the accident rate goes up,” he says. “If those temperatures go above a certain temperature horizon the mine may even have to be partially shut down, so the productive outcome drops dramatically.”

There are other cases where a mine may outgrow the capacity of its existing refrigeration plant and ventilation system.

“As the mine develops underground it opens up new pathways, which need ventilated and cooled. So-called ‘hot spots’ develop as a consequence of retaining the refrigeration and ventilation status quo, especially if the mine has surpassed its refrigeration capacity and or there are influences such as geothermal ingress,” Loudon says.

“The main effect being the limiting of a mine’s opportunity to produce to its full potential. Long term or short term augmentation becomes a viable and cost effective alternative, so they can produce safely and productively.”

Improve employee work conditions

Consistent ventilation and temperature control are essential to the welfare of the employees working in the mines, according to Loudon.

“When it comes to improving overall working conditions underground, an efficient and well planned ventilation and refrigeration systems is key to managing risk for all,” he says. “Aggreko can add the diversity to offer non capital solutions without the upfront cost and waiting time to install and spare parts when things inevitably go wrong.”

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AMSJ Nov 2021