Mine ventilation is a science (or an art, depending on your viewpoint) that deals with the design of an effective air-handling system in an efficient way. Anybody can solve a ventilation problem by over-specifying, but it takes a smart ventilation engineer to perform a good ventilation job with just the right amount of equipment at minimum cost.
The importance of providing adequate ventilation has been recognized since the earliest days of mining. With higher producing mines, the increasing use of diesel-powered equipment, and the working of deeper deposits, ventilation design has become an integral part of the total economic considerations of mine planning. Without an effective ventilation system, no underground facility can operate safely.
Textbooks identify the purpose of ventilation in terms of five components: (1) to provide air of sufficient quantity and quality for human consumption; (2) to dilute and render harmless flammable, explosive, and noxious gases; (3) to cool the working areas for comfort and reduction of heat stress; (4) to disperse harmful dusts from the working areas; and (5) to provide air for underground services such as battery rooms, workshops, pump rooms and diesel stations.
The specific definition of mine ventilation is unimportant. It should be used to guide the operators in the design of mine layouts, overcasts, airshafts, and mine fans in much the same way an industrial engineer employs his knowledge of ducting and buildings to design an air-conditioning system for a residential or a large office building. The big difference is that an underground mine can have so many unknowns, all of which can be highly variable.
The first written evidence of mine ventilation came from the 16th century, but a systematic ventilation theory was not developed until three hundred years later in Europe. Even to this day, we are still a long way behind the other engineers. Civil engineers, for example, know a lot about the properties of the materials they work with - steel, concrete, etc., and they know how to figure the loads on the structure they build. But we miners still know very little about the behavior of air in case of fire or about shock losses caused by change of airflow directions and airway areas.
In fact, we seem to do everything in an ad hoc way - we guess at it and hope that we won't be too far off. And, because most of our ores are of marginal value, we are usually caught in a squeeze between costs and safety. However, this presents us a challenge. Without getting sophisticated, we are in a very good position to make big changes for the better.
This book, first written in 1988 for a ventilation short course at the University of Missouri- Rolla, was based on lecture notes for mining students developed over the years, During the revision of this text, it has been tempting to expand some chapters, delete some topics and add new materials. There have been several major revisions to the text since then to reflect current interests in particular areas, including one chapter on mining cooling by John R. Marks (Homestake Mining Company) and one on mine monitoring by Linneas Laage (MSHA); their contributions and efforts are appreciated.
The purpose of this text has not changed since then, that is, to help ventilation engineers, planning engineers, safety, production, technical and administrative personnel to further understand, from a practical point of view, how air actually behaves, so that we can incorporate this knowledge into our system design to save money.
This text assumes no prior knowledge of mine ventilation, but acquaintance with mining terminology and personal computers is desirable, and an understanding of basic math is needed. Also, because of the broad subjects covered in this course and the limited time available for its formal presentation, this text is not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather to serve as a text reference for further use. References are listed at the end of each covered subject.