Best Practices for a Safe Underground Evacuation

Mine Evacuation Best Practices
Photo Credit: https://www.workplacesafetynorth.ca/news/news-post/mining-safety-report-new-heat-stress-standard-released-ontario

One of the biggest challenges underground mining operations face is visibility of events happening underground from the surface. When monitoring an evacuation situation, this limitation is even more pronounced when ensuring miner safety during an emergency.

Newtrax recently spoke to Michael Place, Unit Manager at Gold Fields’ Granny Smith mine, about the best practices to follow during emergency evacuations. Michael has spearheaded the implementation of the Newtrax Evacuation Notification system at Granny Smith and will be speaking about the benefits of this digital system at the upcoming IMARC 2018 conference in Melbourne.


Newtrax: What types of dangers are miners exposed to underground that  could trigger an emergency evacuation?

Michael Place: When it comes to dangers facing miners underground, the most terrifying would be fire. Operating diesel powered equipment in a confined space can deplete oxygen when fire and smoke break out. Some other triggers of an emergency include, but are not limited to, seismicity (underground earthquake), fall of ground, unintentional initiation of explosives, any personnel medical emergency, gas intersection, water inrush, vehicle vs vehicle collision and so on.

Newtrax: What are the first 3 things personnel working underground should do when an emergency has been announced?

Michael Place:

  1. Park up equipment off main travel ways
  2. Make their way to the nearest refuge chamber
  3. Maintain radio silence to allow the airways to be clear for communication to the incident scene

Newtrax: What are the most important things to think about during an emergency underground?

Michael Place: Accounting for all personnel and if there is an injured person, getting them to the surface as quickly and as safely as possible.

Newtrax: How are emergencies in underground mines different from any other emergency alarm?

Michael Place: The sheer size of an UG mine adds a layer of complexity to an emergency. Accounting for personnel and communicating from above ground to underground are some of the hardest things to manage. Generally, the assistance required in an emergency comes from above ground through the form of a medical professional or the emergency response team (ERT).

Newtrax: How does technology enable emergency evacuation to be safer?

Michael Place: Accounting for personnel underground without the use of the radio allows the radio to remain clear for communication to the incident scene. Allowing real time tracking of personnel gives the incident controller data like never before to focus on the incident at hand.

Newtrax: What kind of advice would you give to other underground mines about best practices regarding safer emergency evacuations?

Michael Place: When it comes to enhancing safety UG during emergency evacuations, the most important aspect is getting all personnel out from UG or to a safe location in a safe manner, as quickly as possible.

Best practice now combines multiple technologies including stench gas, voice over alarm and the Newtrax Evacuation system to ensure communicating to all personnel that an emergency in in place is done as fast a possible. Investing in technology to enhance safety in UG mines ensures everyone goes home safely every day.

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