Gold mine installs fire protection

September 2016 Fire & Safety

FS-Systems was approached by a large mining company in Ghana to upgrade its existing fire detection systems and replace them with the latest technology in fire detection and voice evacuation systems.

Fire detection systems in most industries are designed and implemented to save people and property. This is no different in the mining industry, on a mine one would think that there is a greater risk of fires occurring in the tunnels and shafts, but statistics will show that there is a far greater likelihood that fires will occur in substations, workshops, diesel generator bays, plant rooms, mess halls, chemical stores and administration buildings etc. These are critical infrastructure areas that, should they be destroyed by fire, could lead to a temporary halt to production which generally means huge losses in revenue.

When one considers the high power consumption of the sophisticated equipment being used in the mining environment combined with the harsh environmental elements, the risk of fires increases exponentially. Mines are very dusty, sometimes hot and humid and potentially explosive.

For these reasons it became necessary to implement a suitable fire detection and emergency voice evacuation system at the gold mine. Having gone through a detailed design and consultative process which included all stakeholders, the following recommendations were made:

• A new fire detection and emergency voice evacuation system to be installed within key buildings and remote sites across the entire mine site.

• All alarms and alerts generated must be relayed back to the main control room (MCR).

• The new fire and voice system must integrate with existing third-party services.

• All alarms and alerts to be displayed on a graphical map in the MCR.

• Emergency voice evacuation was required for mass notification.

The right solution

When selecting the appropriate solution for a fire detection and emergency voice evacuation system for this mining environment, FS-Systems carefully considered the following:

1. Quality of products: One has to consider the location of the mine, physical form of the sensors and the type of devices. It is our professional experience that all products are customised. Mines require hazardous and explosive material, so it is natural that the equipment chosen is approved for this environment.

2. Harsh environment: All mines produce large amounts of dirt and dust and even though some areas have filtration systems, over time even these areas will become contaminated. The dust leads many installation companies to favour early warning aspirating smoke detection systems. Their effectiveness and longevity have been proven in mining applications with their lower maintenance cost are an added advantage.

3. Networking capabilities: Mining operations usually encompass large areas with one or several control rooms. Reaction time to fires is often lengthened because of the vast areas that need to be covered. For these reasons it is important that the solution and equipment selected is interfaced and networkable. With the lack of infrastructure on mines, it is always advantageous to have integrated security systems running on the same platform and in this case, including the fire detection and emergency voice evacuation system.

Solution details

When considering the mines requirements and operating environment it was clear that the best technological solution for them was to install an Edwards EST3 fire detection and emergency voice evacuation system.

EST3 is a modular control platform designed to meet the needs of applications ranging from small standalone fire alarm systems to multi-panel networks with unified fire alarm, security and voice evacuation functions. Virtually all EST3 operating features are software-controlled via their Fireworks software, giving EST3 great flexibility and ensuring operational changes and upgrades are possible, years after the initial installation. The remarkable flexibility and scalability means you pay for only what you want.

Graphical user interface

The Fireworks software provides a simple user interface, taking large amounts of information and presenting it in an easy-to-understand format. It does this by dividing the major system functions into easy-to-manage quadrants making the system intuitive to use because information is presented in a logical way to the operator. Fireworks was loaded onto a computer within the MCR.

The software allows the operator to control and monitor the site-wide fire detection and voice evacuation system. Various reports can be retrieved from Fireworks to assist with system diagnostics and maintenance.

Maintenance made easy

EST3 has advanced diagnostics and maintenance reporting capabilities. Various reports can be extracted from Fireworks to assist with diagnostics as well as scheduled maintenance which improves system reliability. Detector status and percentage of the dirt ingress level of each Edwards detector can be drawn from Fireworks. The Signature Series detectors send a message when they need cleaning. This allows for pre-emptive maintenance and greatly reduces the amount of time required to maintain the system. Detailed trouble codes quickly identify problems.

System design and implementation

The design specified 19 EST3 fire panels installed at key locations within the mine. Each of these fire panels interfacing with their various line devices (smoke and heat detectors, red break-glass units, line relays, interface units, IR flame detectors, UV flame detectors and aspirating smoke detectors etc.). Each fire panel was connected to the mines fibre optic network to relay information to the MCR.

The fire panel in the MCR is considered the master panel as it displays all the alarms and alerts emanating from the fire panels out in the field. FS reticulated PH120 fire resistant cables between line devices. All cables were installed in 25 mm galvanised steel conduit. The client provided all the labour for civil works (trenching) for the fibre optic cabling between the fire alarm panels.

The implementation of a multi-million Rand site-wide fire detection and voice evacuation system was an overwhelming success.


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