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Mine ventilation improvements build greater energy efficiency

For underground mining, air ventilation is essential to worker safety.

To ensure that we maintain a high safety standard, while at the same time be energy efficient, we have implemented improvements to our ventilation fan systems at our Coal and Platinum operations in South Africa over the past three years - something to celebrate this World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

In completing these improvements, we have achieved energy and CO2 emission savings that have greatly contributed towards meeting our 2015 energy- and carbon-management targets.

People first

Ventilation systems are critical to ensure safe working conditions for our people underground.

They provide fresh, cool air, and dilute and remove flammable gases as well as machine exhaust gases. The systems run continuously 24 hours a day, throughout the year. When we assess opportunities to reduce ventilation energy demands, our priority is to ensure that the health, safety and comfort of workers are not compromised, while maintaining good ventilation standards.

In 2012, an initial mine ventilation optimisation project at our Goedehoop colliery in South Africa resulted in a variety of energy-efficient ventilation changes achieving considerable energy savings. A number of relatively low-cost energy savings were realised through maintenance improvements. Interventions included reducing fan speed to suit optimum system airflow, improving fan inlet and outlet duct connections to reduce entry and discharge losses, and replacing components such as inlet guide vanes, gearboxes and motors. The energy consumption of the fans is monitored to verify energy savings and to provide a performance measure to ensure that energy savings are sustained.

An evolution in safety

Building on the success of the initial project, mine ventilation system optimisation was undertaken across our underground coal mines in South Africa and Platinum’s underground mines.

Those efficiency opportunities requiring capital typically deliver attractive returns, with less than two years’ payback on the outlay. The programme has generated a collective annual energy saving of just over 1.8 MW (enough to power 1,730 mid-sized homes for a year), which is equivalent to 16,700 tonnes CO2. The energy-cost saving for Coal South Africa alone amounts to around $1.3 million per year. 

Mine ventilation optimisation is now being driven across the Group.

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