Monthly Archives: March 2018

Transforming Old Mine Shafts

Transforming old mine shafts into future storage sites
February 12, 2018 by Nancy Owano, Tech Xplore

Just as there is an interest in sources of energy, there is also an urgent keen interest in storage. What is viable, as in what can work efficiently and make economic sense?

“Companies around the world are pouring time and money into projects to develop large-scale batteries to store energy and release it when there is greater demand on the grid,” said Greig Cameron, Scottish Business Editor, The Times.

That is one focal point, but an innovative company called Gravitricity, reported on this month by The Times and several other publications, thinks of another way to store energy.

Gravitricity Managing Director Charlie Blair: “So far there is a lot of focus on batteries, but our idea is quite different.”

Mining Technology quoted him: “It’s a simple case of ‘What goes up, must come down’.”

Its system can operate for decades without any reduction in performance. The company said the system had a 50-year design life with no cycle limit or degradation.

So what is their technology? They want to use old mine shafts for energy stores. These would be disused mine shafts transformed into energy facilities through a system that uses gravity and massive weights.

ESI Africa said that according to Blair, the company was “keen to speak with mine operators in South Africa” to understand how they might work together.

The technology operates in the 1MW to 20 MW power range. (Each unit can be configured to produce between 1 and 20MW peak power, with the output duration from 15 minutes to 8 hours.) The company said their technology has similar advantages to pumped storage for networks up to 33kV, but it does not need any nearby mountain with a lake or loch at the top.

“A cylindrical weight of up to 3000 tonnes is suspended in a deep shaft by a number of synthetic ropes each of which is engaged with a winch capable of lifting its share of the weight. Electrical power is then absorbed or generated by raising or lowering the weight. The weight is guided by a system of tensioned guide wires (patents applied for) to prevent it from swinging and damaging the shaft. The winch system can be accurately controlled through the electrical drives to keep the weight stable in the hole.” That is how the company explains what the system is about.

Time of response is impressive. The system should be able to respond to fluctuations in demand almost instantly. The company stated response time as “zero to full power in less than one second.”

The company was awarded a £650,000 grant by the British Government agency Innovate UK.

A deep hole in the ground can be a disused mineshaft brought back into use, or a purpose-sunk shaft, said the company. Shaft depths can be from 150m for new shafts down to 1500m for existing mines.

Costs for such a system? Blair said the biggest single cost was the hole, “and that is why the start-up is developing their technology using existing mine shafts,” said ESI-Africa.

The company said they will prove the technology using existing mine shafts. “As our technology costs decrease, the costs of drilling will reduce significantly, opening the opportunity for purpose-built shafts.”

What’s left in the wake of South Africa’s abandoned gold mines – Green Biz
Mark Olalde
Friday, January 15, 2016 – 12:45am
The name is derived from “happy prospect” in Afrikaans, and once upon a time, life and the gold haul were both good at the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, 50 miles west of Johannesburg.

But two years after the mine’s owners abandoned it because it was unprofitable, sewage runs in the streets of the old mining village, tailings impoundments cover nearby towns in dust and illegal miners rule the abandoned shafts.

“I’m just going to take one or two potshots at them to keep them at a distance,” said Louis Nel, head of security at the now-abandoned Blyvooruitzicht.

He raises his shotgun and shatters the afternoon calm with several blasts. A few zama zamas — illegal miners whose title means “We try! We try!” in Zulu — run for cover.

Blyvooruitzicht is but one of thousands of abandoned mines scattered across South Africa, many from the gold industry. With recently shuttered mines adding to the massive impact of those left derelict years ago, the country faces a growing environmental, health and social crisis created by a withering gold industry and inadequate oversight.

South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources, or DMR, holds a list of 6,000 “derelict and ownerless” mines, which became the government’s problem over the years when the former owners disappeared. While the DMR slowly rehabilitates those mines — at a rate of about 10 per year — companies continue to walk away from operations such as Blyvooruitzicht, and both mining companies and the government are slow to accept responsibility.

In the meantime, millions of South Africans live around waste facilities and many deal with respiratory, skin and other health effects that they blame on the mine waste piled in and around their communities.

In 2013, mining companies produced 562,000 times as much waste as gold, according to the South African Chamber of Mines. A decade before, that same ratio was less than half as large, at 212,000-to-1.

Mining operations are generating increased waste because South Africa’s gold is running out, and the remaining resource only can be found several miles below ground. This produces more waste and leads to higher production costs, more mining debris and increased acid mine drainage. South African companies dig up waste weighing more than 15 million pounds — heavier than 38 Boeing 747s — in order to process one standard gold bar’s worth of final product.

Around Johannesburg, some 270 tailings piles, most of them unlined, contain that waste, which weighs in at an estimated 6 billion metric tons. According to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, toxic and radioactive mine residue areas cover 124 square miles.

“You don’t want big sinkholes, you don’t want underground fires burning forever, you don’t want kids falling down shafts,” said Caroline Digby, director of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Center for Sustainability in Mining and Industry. “All these things happen all the time because sites are not properly closed.”

In the Johannesburg area, with 10 million residents, at least 15 percent of the population lives in informal settlements, with many placed by the former apartheid government near or even on top of these dumps. At Blyvooruitzicht, about 11,000 people live around the abandoned mine, many of them unemployed miners unable to afford housing elsewhere.

Throughout its lifetime, the mine generated about 2.5 million pounds of gold, silver, uranium and other minerals, but now it is a volatile wasteland. Just outside the main mining village, unremediated tailings piles stretch like monstrous sandy beaches. Children are known to swim in puddles of water on the dumps. Residents live in constant fear of electricity and water shutoffs, and illegal miners frequently engage mine security in gun battles.

Sikeme Lekhooana, chairman of the Blyvoor Community Committee, said his 5-year-old son knows the sound of gunfire all too well. “My little boy will tell you, ‘Papa, that is a gunshot outside,’” he said.

Blyvooruitzicht operated from 1937 until 2013, when a slumping market and labor disputes forced it into liquidation 14 years ahead of schedule. Two companies — DRDGOLD and Village Main Reef — worked the mine toward the end of its life. But each company has walked away, claiming the other is the owner and therefore responsible for the cleanup.

Lekhooana worked at the mine for 32 years before being laid off when the operation was liquidated. More than 1,000 employees from the mine face the same situation, unable to find work in a shrinking industry.

As of 2007, the owners of Blyvooruitzicht had set aside a fund of around $1,000 to clean up the large amounts of mine waste. That fund has since been increased to around $3 million, but DRDGOLD said the true cost to rehabilitate would be at least three times that.

Said Nikisi Lesufi, senior executive for health and environment for the Chamber of Mines, “There’s always a shortfall.”

Even when mines are operational, the DMR and other agencies do not properly address environmental consequences. Between November 2007 and February 2008, for example, thousands of metric tons of tailings pond material spilled from Blyvooruitzicht on four occasions, some of the waste washing into a nearby residential area.

These spills occurred with relative frequency, and while mine reports from the time noted crews being sent to clean roads and calls being made to the proper authorities, they do not mention any other measures taken to protect the community.

One major environmental and health concern is the vast production of acid mine drainage, especially around Johannesburg, which the water department estimates at up to 92 million gallons per day. Acid mine drainage mobilizes heavy metals in the environment, creates sinkholes and pollutes water supplies.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research estimated that as early as 2000, up to 20 percent of the stream flow (PDF) around Johannesburg came from groundwater that was polluted, in part, by mines. Yet as of last year, at least 39 mining companies were operating without a water license, the South African Human Rights Commission found.

And the air is no cleaner. The district just west of the city recorded 42.24 metric tons of tailings-piles dust (PDF) blowing into the air daily, some of it taken up by livestock and food crops.

Residents say that these piles cause health problems ranging from rashes to asthma to cancer. The list goes on, but a lack of local epidemiological studies has made it nearly impossible for communities near mine dumps to pursue litigation against mining companies.

Tudor Shaft is one such community, an informal settlement sitting atop a partially removed tailings facility just west of Johannesburg. An estimated 1,800 people live in shacks built on the radioactive and toxic soil. An orange hill of mine residue marks the center of the community, and sludge washes through the settlement when it rains.

Heavy metals and other pollutants in mine waste pose the most immediate threat to human health, but experts say consistent exposure to large amounts of low-level radiation might have long-term effects, too.

“When you’re already in a stress-burdened community that’s exposed to a variety of environmental pollutants, even low radiation levels that might not be toxic to very healthy individuals might have a significant impact on people,” said André Swart, executive dean of the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Some Tudor Shaft residents mix the soil with lotion and apply it to their faces as a skin cream. Some are baptized in polluted streams, and others — often pregnant women — follow a traditional practice in which they eat cakes made from the toxic dirt.

“You can either inhale [pollutants], ingest it, or absorb it through the skin, so they’re actually exposing themselves to all three of those root-ways of the pollution,” said Swart. “As this accumulates, the exposure level gets higher and higher and there can be real health issues.”

Follow the link above to read the full article………..


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Safety In The Laboratory

Here are some great tips to remember concerning safety in the laboratory

by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.
Updated December 15, 2017
ThoughtCo – click the link for the full article.

“The science lab is an inherently dangerous place, with fire hazards, dangerous chemicals, and risky procedures. No one wants to have an accident in the lab, so you need to follow lab safety rules.

1. The Most Important Lab Safety Rule
Follow the instructions! Whether it’s listening to your instructor or lab supervisor or following a procedure in a book, it’s critical to listen, pay attention, and be familiar with all the steps, from start to finish, before you begin. If you are unclear about any point or have questions, get them answered before starting, even if it’s a question about a step later on in the protocol. Know how to use all of the lab equipment before you begin.

Why is this the most important rule? If you don’t follow it:

You endanger yourself and others in the lab.
You could easily ruin your experiment.
You put the lab at risk of an accident, which could damage equipment as well as harm people.
You could get suspended (student) or fired (researcher).
Now that you know the most important rule, let’s continue to other lab safety rules…
2. Know the Location of Safety Equipment
In the event something goes wrong, it’s important to know the location of the safety equipment and how to use it. It’s a good idea to periodically check equipment to make sure it is in working order. For example, does water actually come out of the safety shower? Does the water in the eye wash look clean?

Not sure where safety equipment is located? Review lab safety signs and look for them before starting an experiment.
3. Safety Rule – Dress for the Lab
Dress for the lab. This is a safety rule because your clothing is one of your best forms of protection against an accident. For any science lab, wear covered shoes, long pants, and keep your hair up so it can’t fall into your experiment or a flame.

Make sure you wear protective gear, as needed. Basics include a lab coat and safety goggles. You may also need gloves, hearing protection, and other items, depending on the nature of the experiment.

4. Don’t Eat or Drink in the Laboratory
Save your snacking for the office, not the lab. Don’t eat or drink in the science laboratory. Don’t store your food or beverages in the same refrigerator that contains experiments, chemicals, or cultures.

There is too much risk of contaminating your food. You could touch it with a hand that is coated with chemicals or pathogens or set it down on a lab bench that has residue from past experiments.
Having drinks in the lab risks your experiment, too. You could spill a drink on your research or lab notebook.
Eating and drinking in the lab is a form of distraction. If you are eating, you aren’t concentrating on your work. It’s unsafe.
If you’re used to drinking liquids in the lab, you might accidentally reach for and drink the wrong liquid. This is especially true if you did not label your glassware or used lab glassware as dishes (2 other safety mistakes).
5. Don’t Taste or Sniff Chemicals
Not only should you not bring in food or drinks, but you shouldn’t taste or smell chemicals or biological cultures already in the lab. The best way to know what’s in a container is to label it, so get in the habit of making a label for glassware before adding the chemical.

Tasting or smelling some chemicals can be dangerous or even deadly. Don’t do it!

Lab safety rules for students – United Federation of Teachers

Report all accidents, injuries, and breakage of glass or equipment to instructor immediately.

Keep pathways clear by placing extra items (books, bags, etc.) on the shelves or under the work tables. If under the tables, make sure that these items can not be stepped on.

Long hair (chin-length or longer) must be tied back to avoid catching fire.

Wear sensible clothing including footwear. Loose clothing should be secured so they do not get caught in a flame or chemicals.

Work quietly — know what you are doing by reading the assigned experiment before you start to work. Pay close attention to any cautions described in the laboratory exercises

Do not taste or smell chemicals.

Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes when heating substances, dissecting, etc.

Do not attempt to change the position of glass tubing in a stopper.

Never point a test tube being heated at another student or yourself. Never look into a test tube while you are heating it.

Unauthorized experiments or procedures must not be attempted.

Keep solids out of the sink.

Leave your work station clean and in good order before leaving the laboratory.

Do not lean, hang over or sit on the laboratory tables.

Do not leave your assigned laboratory station without permission of the teacher.

Learn the location of the fire extinguisher, eye wash station, first aid kit and safety shower.

Fooling around or “horse play” in the laboratory is absolutely forbidden. Students found in violation of this safety rule will be barred from participating in future labs and could result in suspension.

Anyone wearing acrylic nails will not be allowed to work with matches, lighted splints, bunsen burners, etc.

Do not lift any solutions, glassware or other types of apparatus above eye level.

Follow all instructions given by your teacher.

Learn how to transport all materials and equipment safely.

No eating or drinking in the lab at any time!


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust hazards in mining

Mining, maintenance or processing activities can result in the release of dust particles into the air. Exposure to dust in mining and quarrying continues to be a major risk to the health of workers.

Breathing in dust, such as coal dust, silica dust and other finely powdered materials, can damage the lungs and airways. The risk to health varies depending on the size and nature of the dust particles.

Exposure to dust can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, and prolonged exposure can lead to a range of serious lung diseases including silicosis, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

This guide provides details on managing dust hazards in Queensland mines and quarries, including information about legislative requirements, health impacts, measurement and control. You should consult an occupational health and safety professional for specific advice about controlling hazards in your workplace.

Sources of dust and contributing factors
Dust particles are generated and can become airborne during many of the extraction and processing activities associated with producing and processing rock and mineral products.

These activities include:

loading and tipping
crushing, conveying and screening
cutting and sawing
cleaning and maintaining fixed and mobile plant.
Mine workers can be exposed to dust particles that differ in chemical composition, such as:

dust containing crystalline silica
coal dust
dust containing metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic
The geology of the rock and mining activities to extract and process the rock will determine the type and quantity of dust particles generated.

Health and safety effects of dust
Breathing in dust can result in a range of occupational illnesses and diseases depending on:

size of dust particles
composition of the dust particle and its effect on the body
concentration of dust particles in the breathing zone of the worker
how often and how long a person breathes in the dust.
Most dust clouds contain particles of widely varying sizes. Hazardous dust is not always visible.

The larger particles that can be breathed in are called inhalable or inspirable dust particles. Inhalable dust particles are visible to the naked eye and are deposited in the nose, throat and upper respiratory tract. Respirable dust contains dust particles so small they are invisible to the naked eye and reach deep into the lungs.

Different types of dust particles have different health effects. For example, respirable crystalline silica dust causes scarring of the lungs, and inhalable lead dust can damage the central nervous system. Many occupational diseases are the result of many years of exposure to dust and it may take years or decades before the disease becomes noticeable.
The above article was sourced from Business Queensland Government 

Mining health safety – 7 common risks to protect yourself against

The mining industry has a reputation for being a risky business, with health risks that are varied and often quite serious, and it is important for miners to protect themselves accordingly.

Nevertheless, mining doesn’t have to be unsafe. With the introduction of strict safety legislation and protocol, as well as advances in safety equipment, the industry has seen its fatality rate drop over time. Although the goal of zero harm has not yet been achieved, it remains the standard that mining companies continue to strive towards.

“Understanding and being aware of your environment is the first step to preventing illness or injury in the workplace,” reveals mining medicine researcher Megan Clark, who outlines the following 7 common health risks to watch out for in the mining industry.

1. Coal dust
Dust inhalation or coal dust is one of the most common concerns for miners. “The ongoing inhalation of coal dust can cause what is colloquially known as ‘miner’s lung’ or ‘black lung’. Miner’s lung is a form of the occupational lung disease group pneumoconiosis. It varies in severity, but symptoms include shortness of breath and scarring of lung tissue, which can cause ongoing respiratory issues,” says Clark.

Even though measures to prevent black lung have been legally enforced for many years now, new cases still occur among coal miners. Mining companies need to develop a dust control plan, and supervisors should ensure that dust control systems are working properly for every production shift. Mine workers should be trained on the hazards of over-exposure to coal mine dust. Respiratory protection should be used when dust control protection is being installed, maintained or repaired. Medical screening and surveillance is also essential.

2. Noise
Mines are noisy places, with the constant of drilling and heavy machinery, and the potential for hearing damage is quite serious. “It can be easy for you to mentally get used to loud noises, but that doesn’t mean that damage isn’t still being done. Many people don’t notice the damage to their hearing until long after they were first exposed to the noisy environment, as most damage occurs very slowly. Over-exposure to excessive noise can result in tinnitus (ringing in the ears), sleep disturbances, concentration problems and even permanent hearing loss,” Clark explains.

To protect workers against noise, mining companies should evaluate working conditions and noise exposure through risk assessments. Avoiding and reducing exposure can be achieved by appling engineering controls at the noise source or along the noise path to reduce exposures, such as vibration dampeners or absorptive panels. Regular maintenance of machines is also essential to reducing noise. Employer must ensure proper use of personal hearing protection amongst noise-exposed employees, while providing necessary health and safety training and maintaining up-to-date health surveillance records.

3. Whole body vibration
Whole body vibration (WBV) is a slow forming physical hazard that occurs in mining workers and other occupations that work with heavy machinery. “In the mining environment, WBV can be caused either by spending a lot of time sitting on machinery, which is most of the time in mining extraction, or by standing, such as working on jumbo operators. Some forms of vibration are ok, but they become dangerous when they involve uneven surfaces, vehicle activity such as ripping versus pushing material in a bulldozer, and engine vibrations. Symptoms of WBV include musculoskeletal disorders, reproductive damage in females, vision impairment, digestive problems and cardiovascular changes,” Clark outlines.

Again, reducing exposure also reduces the health risks and should be the first step that mining companies take. This might include filling in potholes on unmade roads, minimising the transport of goods or materials, or replacing manned with unmanned machines such as remotely controlled conveyors. Where risks cannot be avoided, supervisors should reduce the time for which the employee uses the machine each day. Instruction and training are critical, and symptoms of back pain in employees should be closely monitored.

4. UV Exposure
For open-pit miners, understanding the risk of over-exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation in sunlight is essential. “Over exposure of ultraviolet rays can put you at risk of skin cancer, of which Australia has the highest rate in the world. Not only can UV rays cause melanomas to form, but they can cause serious damage to your eyes if you are not wearing protective eye wear. In the short-term, overexposure to the sun can cause dehydration, headaches and nausea. Mine workers often spend whole days out in the baking hot sun, so are naturally at a very high risk of developing cancer and eye problems if they are not adequately protected,” Clark explains.

Employers should conduct a risk assessment on outdoor work scheduled to assist in developing appropriate sun protection measures. The most effective way of reducing UV exposure is to use a combination of protection methods, including re-organising work to avoid the UV peak of the day, providing natural or artificial shade, providing appropriate protective clothing, and applying sunscreen. It is also important that employers train employees to raise awareness of the risks associated with exposure to UV and the sun protection measures required. Employers can provide skin cancer checks as part of regular workplace medical examinations and in pre-employment medical checks.

5. Musculoskeletal disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) refer to any problems affecting your bones, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. “Mine workers are exposed to a variety of potential health risks that fall under this broad category. While musculoskeletal damage can occur due to a trip, fall or heavy lift, the more serious ones occur slowly over time. This could be due to ongoing heavy lifting or repetitive strains,” says Clark.

Preventing MSDs needs to be a key part of every workplace health and safety program. In safe and healthy workplaces, employers should identify and assess job-related MSD hazards and put in place controls to reduce workers’ exposure to MSD hazards. Furthermore, workers should be advised and trained about MSD hazards in their job and workplace and should be encouraged to participate in health and safety programs through early reporting of MSD symptoms or concerns to their supervisors. Employers should follow up to ensure preventative measures are working.

6. Thermal stress
A common health risk that miners face is thermal – or heat – stress. “Mining environments are often very hot and humid, particularly those in outback Australia, which over time can cause thermal stress in workers. Overexposure to heat and humidity can cause the body to become fatigued and distressed. This can result in heat stroke or more serious ongoing health problems,” Clark reveals.

Where there is a possibility of heat stress occurring, companies need to carry out a risk assessment that considers the work rate, working climate and worker clothing and respiratory protective equipment. Where possible, control the temperature using engineering solutions, provide mechanical aids where possible to reduce the work rate, and regulate the length of exposure to hot environments. Furthermore, personal protective equipment should be provided, such as specialised protective clothing that incorporates personal cooling systems or breathable fabrics. Furthermore, companies should provide training for workers, especially new and young employees, and monitor the health of workers at risk.

7. Chemical hazards
Mine workers are often exposed to harmful chemicals. “As an example, the most common group of chemicals that cause concern in a coal mining environment are polymeric chemicals. Regardless of the chemicals you work in close proximity to, appropriate safety wear and precautions need to be taken to minimise your body’s exposure to them. Risks include chemical burns, respiratory problems and poisoning,” Clark outlines.

Each chemical has a unique set of hazards and needs to be handled properly to ensure worker safety, so employers need to conduct risk assessments to establish best practices. A standard operating procedure (SOP) that addresses the use of correct personal protective equipment, safe handling, safe use, and proper disposal should be established. Ventilation is also an important factor in minimizing exposure, as well as general housekeeping and cleanliness. Thorough training and drills should be conducted regarding the company’s spill response plans and chemical hygiene plans.

Thanks to the Mining Review for the above article.


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.