Prepare now for the Australian summer. That is the key message from a leading underground mine cooling manager as manufacturing, labour, and supply chain issues remain rife.
Aggreko Underground Cooling Sector Manager Mitch Bevan is encouraging mining construction, production, ventilation, and planning teams to prepare as early as possible for spring and summer, with rental demand at all-time highs on the back of unusually warm weather.
“Rental cooling and ventilation solutions are a hot commodity on the back of post-pandemic supply chain challenges and increasing production targets,” Mr Bevan said.
“Although Aggreko is not 100% immune from world-wide supply chain challenges, we are in a fortunate position of having an agile business model, large equipment fleet and a global team of experts.”
As Manager of Aggreko’s Mine Cooling Business for the past four years, Mr Bevan has seen the effects of mines that are well-prepared – as well as underprepared – for hot temperatures.
“For every megawatt of permanent refrigeration cooling, it’s upwards of $1.2 million in capital expenditure, and ventilation alone is about 30% of a mine’s total operating costs,” he said.
“Refrigeration is an essential cost, however there are additional risks on top of this cost, associated with purchase, installation, and operation of large mechanical plants. Particularly in current times, projects are at elevated risk of cost and schedule over-run. The schedule over-run can be the most damaging due to the negative effect on forecasted production. Once the plant installation has been completed, there are further risks with operating the plant, such as sourcing labor, and responsibility of maintaining the plant over time.
“Aggreko’s mine cooling solutions are designed to minimise risk, and provide reliable, easy-to-use mine cooling services. We can mobilise relatively fast and modify our plants year on year, due to the modular design of our equipment. Along with the rental of the equipment, we provide complete mechanical and electrical design of system, installing and commissioning and servicing of the plant for the duration of the hire.”
During summer in the Australian outback, it is common for above ground temperatures to surpass 40 degrees – a heat felt keenly by anyone underground. While the guidelines vary between states and territories, sub-30-degree underground temperatures are considered ‘safe zones’ in mining.
Resources Safety and Health Queensland guidelines state comfortable temperatures to prevent heat-related illnesses like heat rash, dehydration, cramps, or exhaustion are between 20-27 degrees Celsius when the relative humidity ranges from 35-60%.
Temperatures are hotting up due to global warming, and Australia has experienced unseasonably warm conditions during winter. This is reportedly due to developing El Niño and positive Indian Ocean Dipole (natural drivers), as well as climate change.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has not yet predicted its long-range forecast for November-January however it reports that Australia’s climate has warmed by approximately 1.47 degrees Celsius in the period from 1910 to 2021 – leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.
“We are experiencing an unusually warm winter, and forecasters are predicting hotter than usual temperatures due to natural drivers of our weather and continued global warming, so it’s even more important that mines take action to have the right solutions in place,” Mr Bevan said.
“The best thing you can do for the safety of staff to lower heat and humidity underground – and for the productivity and scalability of your mine – is to outsource mine cooling and ventilation solutions to a reliable provider that offers remote monitoring, maintenance as well as equipment and technology upgrades.”
Aggreko is currently engaged with a Tier 1 miner to supply a total of 4.8 megawatts of power across two cooling plants at a large Australian coal mine.
“The project demonstrates how cost effective and efficient rental cooling plants are for coal mining, as opposed to installing fixed, permanent plants,” Mr Bevan said.
“The relatively shallow and horizontal nature of long wall coal mines, combined with the semi-permanent nature of a rental plant, means the plant can efficiently be picked up and moved to the next section for mining.”
Mr Bevan said in the current market, mine managers and production teams have so many competing priorities.
“They have been asked to produce at faster rates to capitalise on commodity prices while also having ambitious targets on the energy transition, with aspects of the market and supply chain making things difficult,” he said.
“Outsourcing mine cooling solutions to an external provider lightens their load, so they can concentrate on their core focus of production. For this summer it is definitely beneficial to prepare early.”
For more information about Aggreko’s modular and scalable temperature control systems, and how they can assist your underground operations, please visit www.aggreko.com.au or call 1300 929 031.