When an underground mining truck fire got out of control this week, mine workers scrambled for a refuge chamber to protect themselves from the potential effects of toxic fumes and asphyxiant gases (Carbon Monoxide) until emergency crews responded and the area was declared safe. According to an industry regulator, ‘a mining truck transporting shotcrete underground was destroyed by fire at a metalliferous mine’ however AMSJ believed that no mine workers were injured during the incident.
The regulator said that ‘the underground mining agitator truck was travelling up a grade when the operator observed smoke coming from the truck.’ Following the activation of the onboard fire suppression system, the mining truck fire intensified when non-metallic covers ignited.
Operators initiated emergency response via an emergency radio call then fled to the refuge chambers until the fire was extinguished providing a textbook case study on the significant benefits of safe refuge in underground operations.
The regulator has reminded operators are reminded of the importance of elimination and segregation of ignition sources from potential fuel sources in various failure scenarios.
It also highlighted that “Introduction to site standards and sound maintenance practices are essential in the prevention of fires.”
Regulators across Australia have developed codes of practice and guidance notes specifically addressing fire risks on mobile plant. Mining operators should examine the use of fire-resistant covers and other items on items of mobile plant where a fire risk exists.
The regulator stated that mine operators should consider the risks of using non-metallic covers as part of the fire risk assessment. Every time fire on an item of mobile plant occurs, the mine operator should immediately arrange to inspect all similar plant in service at their mine to ensure the defective condition that initiated the fire does not exist on other plant.
It highlighted that the number of fires on mobile plant in underground metalliferous mines is unacceptably high. It is the position of the Resources Regulator that fires are mobile plant are preventable, and this will remain a priority focus area.
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