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Mines embrace air quality monitoring solution

August 13, 2013
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Technology

Maestro Mine Ventilation in 60 mines across North America

Mike Gribbons, Maestro Mine Ventilation’s vice-president, marketing and sales, exhibited the company’s air quality and airflow monitoring solution at a Synergy Controls Instrumentation Expo held in Sudbury and Timmins in June.

An air quality monitoring and control solution developed by Sudbury-based Maestro Mine Ventilation is flying off the shelves. After only three years on the market, the company reports approximately 60 installations in underground mines across North America.

“It’s a niche that’s been totally ignored for the last 30 years,” commented vicepresident of marketing and sales Mike Gribbons.

Legacy systems the company is replacing are “1970s technology,” he said. “No one else has taken underground air quality monitoring to the level that we have.”

The system monitors carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other gases, as well as airflow 24/7. It plugs directly into a network switch, operates on Ethernet or leaky feeder, alerts mine personnel on surface through a web-based interface if there is a problem and controls fans and louvers.

Best of all, it’s a fraction of the price of conventional technology.

“The old way of doing it is to use an analog system that goes into a PLC and back up to the network,” said Gribbons. “That kind of system usually takes six to eight months to commission whereas ours can be commissioned in a day.

“Conventional air quality monitoring stations were custom-designed and ended up costing anywhere from $40,000 to $120,000. We can drive that cost down to between $10,000 and $15,000.”

The recently released third generation of the solution includes gas, air flow and humidity sensors designed and assembled in house, resulting in security of supply, better quality control and improved pricing.

“We developed our sensors specifically for underground mines,” said Gribbons.

Conventional gas sensors have to be calibrated underground to reflect the atmospheric pressure at depth. “Our system does not require that because we have pressure and temperature compensation built into each sensor. This means a mine can calibrate a sensor in a controlled environment on surface or in a refuge station and it will be compensated up to two atmospheres, which is greater than the maximum pressure in any mine.”

Alerts

The Maestro Mine Ventilation solution also alerts mine personnel on surface in the event of a sensor malfunction. With legacy systems, a sensor could cease functioning and no one would know.

For mines looking to reduce energy costs through ventilation-on-demand technology, accurate and reliable air quality monitoring is critical.

With reliable, real-time air quality monitoring in place from surface, mines also have much better control over blast time clearance, said Gribbons.

“This is a real competitive advantage from a production standpoint because if you can return into an area a half hour earlier, that’s another 30 more minutes of drill time per day.”

Maestro Mine Ventilation has sold systems to Vale, Xstrata, First Nickel and KGHM International in Sudbury, but most of its sales have been to mines outside Ontario.

“A typical mine project will start off with one to four air quality monitoring systems,” said Gribbons. “After a year, they’ll start to roll them out, so a lot of our customers have come back and are ordering 10 or 20 per mine. Some are up to 30 or 40 systems, so they’ll have the whole mine outfitted for air quality monitoring.”

The company also sells marquee displays to communicate real-time air quality data and other information on the individual mine level.

“We can push data like available horsepower per level so operators know if a scoop tram can enter a mine working,” said Gibbons. “It operates on leaky feeder or Ethernet and is truly failsafe. If communication is lost, which happens quite often, the marquee won’t display past values. It will go to asterisks. That’s important because past values can put you in a dangerous situation if it says there’s 500 horse power available when in fact there’s only 50 horse power available.”

Sales representation

Sister company Synergy Controls is looking after sales in Ontario and Manitoba, Cypress Sales Partnership has been signed up for Saskatchewan and Everest Automation is handling sales in Quebec. Maestro Mine Ventilation itself is looking after the U.S. market and is actively seeking distributors for Australia, South Africa and South America. The company exhibited its air quality monitoring technology at the Australian Mine Ventilation Conference in Adelaide July 1 to 3 and will be showcasing its technology at the 10th International Mine Ventilation Congress in South Africa in August 2014.

www.maestroventilation.com

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