MineSAFE_Standard Design_Spotted Quoll_Insitu

Written by Tom Long, General Manager MineARC South Africa

Since November of 2014, South Africa’s Ministry for Mineral Resources has had new regulations in place regarding the requirements for safe refuge in underground mining. This has been a great step forward in modernising mine safety in a country with some of the world’s deepest mines; however the regulation falls far short of international standards. Even in their own words – “New MHSA regulation 16.6(2) sets out minimum standards for refuge bays. However, employers are reminded that these are minimum standards and that additional considerations may be necessary”.

These short falls in regulatory requirements can potentially make the enforcement of safe refuge more of a liability than a benefit. Safe refuge is an essential ingredient of a mine’s emergency response plan (ERP), however, for it to be effective, the supply of simply a safe refuge with compressed air is not enough.

After the recent Harmony Gold Mine incident which we covered last quarter (see article here) there was a lot of press commending the current Minister for Minerals and Resources, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, for his forward thinking approach to mine safety. It is true that much has been improved in the past two years but we are still a long way from having a safe and comprehensive mine refuge policy in place in South Africa.

Looking at most internationally recognised minimum requirements for mine refuge they stipulate the need for more than one source of breathable air. Most also focus on the quality of air to ensure it is fit for human consumption. Compressed air is an expensive resource and when pumped unregulated in to a permanent refuge bay it is both hazardous to health and expensive to run. What many do not realise is that by simply supplying un-regulated, unfiltered compressed air to a permanent refuge bay, running costs can actually be significantly higher than a comprehensive refuge solution using a full MineARC permanent chamber or a standalone unit from the MineSAFE range.

The Compressed Air Management System (CAMS) is a comprehensive solution to this problem. CAMS is an air filtration system that has three direct benefits to permanent refuge bays; CAMS cleans compressed air of water, dust and oil particles, making it 100% safe for human consumption. CAMS also regulates air flow to the chamber making the chamber up to 95% more efficient than unregulated air flow. Finally, CAMS monitors air quality; shutting the mine air supply to the chamber off at the first sign of toxic contamination.

Air Quality_CAMS_Exploded View with Labels

Using a CAMS unit in conjunction with a MineSAFE Permanent Bulkhead Door (to maintain air integrity), a Series IV air scrubbing system (to remove harmful CO & CO2 from the internal atmosphere), UPS battery back-up and air conditioning will result in a higher initial outlay, but will significantly reduce ongoing operational costs; often to the point that over the long term componentry costs becomes negligible.

If you would like to know more about MineARC’s CAMS system, please email

For a full copy of the amended regulation 16.6 click here.
For a copy of another international standard, the WA Guidelines, click here.