Traditional means of escapeways have played a valuable part of the past but as the mining industry grows and innovative thinking steers the industry in a new direction, conventional designs are being replaced with systems that are built specifically for the harsh mining environment.
All mines are affected by corrosion to some degree, with Safescape Laddertube escapeways designed using polyethylene and stainless steel so they are not subject to the same corrosion issues traditional ladders face.
A fully-enclosed product, the Laddertube is not impacted by water, salt or other mineral deposits, Safescape says. It requires minimal upkeep, fits comfortably within a 1.1 m raisebore and provides for the ultimate in user safety, according to the company. To date, over 42,000 m of Safescape Laddertube has been supplied to over 120 mines across the globe.
“While the introduction of Safescape to the industry has not been without its challenges, the opportunity to work with innovative and progressive clients to provide a safer product for miners has been, in itself, rewarding,” the company said. “Additionally, Safescape has been able to work with its clients to solve challenges above and beyond day-to-day challenges.”
Following a routine inspection at a client’s mine site, a 160 m section of the site’s oldest steel ladder, extending from the old open-pit mine down into the underground workings, had been deemed unsatisfactory due to excessive corrosion. It is at this point the mine began searching for suppliers to replace the existing compromised steel ladderway. Most options were either unsuitable for the length (over 150 m of ladder) or would take up to six weeks to fabricate and deliver. As the mine was forced to close until the ladders could be replaced, a short turnaround to replace this ladder was critical.
As a supplier of escapeway ladders, Safescape is adaptable to the needs of mining companies in terms of tight delivery windows because escapeways are often installed on the critical path to production, the company said. In this case the mine was on standby until a new escapeway could be delivered and installed.
Fortunately, a similarly sized order for another Safescape customer was awaiting shipment and, therefore, the ladders were available to be delivered within days. The production team at Safescape’s Perth, Western Australia, facility worked through the weekend to replace the initial order to meet the sailing date as planned for the other customer. Safescape installers were immediately allocated to the job and mobilised to site along with the installation equipment.
The next step for the Safescape installers and the mine site was to install the Laddertube safely and efficiently. However, a further challenge for this project was that no vehicle access existed to enable delivery of the Laddertube modules into the pit.
“Sometimes to get a job done it requires thinking outside the box,” Safescape said.
Site personnel searched the country and found a helicopter that was both capable and available to lift the ladders and installation equipment into the pit. The helicopter delivered five Laddertube modules at a time into the pit for installation. While this work was going on, site personnel undertook the dangerous task of removing the compromised ladderway. They did this by undertaking a risk assessment and re-securing the old steel ladderway from top to bottom and then removing in sections, bottom up, thereby mitigating the risk of a major failure occurring during the removal process.
“During this downtime on site, all personnel involved in re-instating the ladderway worked as a well-oiled machine to deliver this incredible feat,” Safescape said. Meanwhile the rest of the site team worked to get ahead of maintenance, planning and training so that none of the time taken away from production was wasted.
The Chief Operating Officer on site commented: “This was a truly exceptional outcome and provided a classic example of the support needed from time-to-time in this industry.
“We were fortunate that the ladders were available and are relieved that Safescape were, with the assistance of their dedicated workforce, still able to meet their original order for the ladders sent to the US. It was not only the ladders that they provided but a full installation system to Australian Standards, meeting all the regulators requirements and saving further time.
“A big thanks also goes out to United Aero Helicopters, who were able to supply the helicopter required to lower all equipment and infrastructure into the pit, and to all those involved and providing support in the installation process. Nine days from order to installation complete under normal circumstances is a great effort, but under the circumstances for this job, it can only be described as fantastic.”
The Safescape team pride themselves on their ability to complete fast and safe installation of Laddertube and this situation was no exception. The Laddertube escapeway was installed safely and efficiently in nine days and site was permitted to continue with normal operation.