December 2019
Volume 71    Issue 12

Do refuge chambers represent a good strategy to manage emergencies in underground coal mines?

Halim, A.E.; Brune, J.F.

ABSTRACT:

Debate continues over whether barricading in refuge chambers is a good strategy to survive entrapment emergencies in underground coal mines, in particular fires and explosions. Unlike U.S. coal mines, Australian coal mines are not required to use refuge chambers and, instead, have adopted a strategy that focuses on instructing and training miners to self-escape to the surface. This paper analyzes the merits and problems of using refuge chambers or self-escape to the surface to manage emergencies in fires or explosions in an underground coal mine. We found that using refuge chambers may not be the best strategy during extensive fires or when multiple explosions occur. In these situations, mine rescuers are unlikely to be able to extract miners who are sheltered in chambers and, conversely, self-escape may save more lives than sheltering. Chances for successful self-escape are further improved by regular, externally assessed training such as the level 1 emergency exercises required in Queensland, Australia. These exercises put pressure on mine operators to ensure and maintain the effectiveness of their emergency management system.

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