Throwing the Switch: The planning, the process, and the challenges when changing over the main ventilation system in an operating mine.

Arsalan Talebzadeh,
Abstract Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South Mine is located in Sudbury Basin of Ontario. The opening of this mine represented the first new stand-alone mine in the basin in nearly 20 years. The mine was designed to be a 3000 tpd underground mine, operating to a depth of 1800m. Nickel Rim South (NRS) has two shafts, one for exhaust air the other for intake air, personnel, and rock haulage.
In the winter of 2009 the installation of two centrifugal main exhaust fans was completed, with commissioning in the summer of 2009. Prior to this commissioning, large underground fans installed at the Main Shaft intake of each level, along with a twin surface intake fan arrangement, controlled the system ventilation characteristics. NRS was essentially a push-type temporary ventilation system. With the installation of the surface exhaust fans on the Ventilation Shaft, NRS has changed over to become essentially a permanent pull-type ventilation system.
Changing over from a temporary ventilation system to a permanent system in an operating mine involves not only the coordination of the old and new mechanical systems, but requires that the personal involved also work in a coordinated manner. Several factors must be included in this planning process, these include, but are not limited to; worker safety, mechanical safety, and mine production.
This paper will document Nickel Rim South’s changeover process including the successes, the failures and challenges encountered during this changeover period and the lead up to final commissioning.
Keywords: Commissioning, changeover, Nickel Rim, Ventilation, Safety, Production, Underground, Exhaust, Intake, Fans
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