Emergency refuge chambers manufactured by Perth-based MineARC Systems have been credited with helping save the lives of 28 miners trapped after an underground fire at Newmont’s Waihi gold mine in New Zealand.

A truck engine caught fire in the underground mine on July 17, leaving the miners trapped in three refuge chambers, some of them for up to seven hours. One of the miners was treated for smoke inhalation, however there were no other injuries. An investigation has been launched into the incident, to ascertain what caused the fire in the 35-tonne truck.

The sealed refuge chambers are designed to keep miners alive for up to 36 hours, with oxygen and water supplies, a communication system and packs of cards.

MineARC’s general manager Mike Lincoln says, “Based on everything we’ve seen, it appears Waihi management and emergency rescue teams delivered a textbook run of a well thought out and well executed emergency response plan (ERP), of which refuge chambers clearly form a vital component. MineARC is satisfied (pending site evaluation) that our chambers performed as required; maintaining a secure environment for the miners, safe from exposure to fire, smoke, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.”

The company says the incident highlights the importance of adhering to all sections listed under the Australian refuge chamber guideline for hard rock mines considered as world’s best practice, particularly the provision of both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide scrubbing in refuge chambers (both prevalent in fire situations).”

“We will continue talking with our friends at Waihi in coming weeks to see if we can assist them further in their ERP preparations,” says Mike Lincoln.


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