There is no miner or mine operator that is not aware of the great need for ground-fault protection when it comes to mining equipment. In fact, the need for such things is covered under the CSA Standard Use of Electricity in Mines, which sets out standards for ground-fault-current limitations and protections in underground mines where a simple spark could be a massive disaster.
For the last 20 years, the mining industry has been using sensitive ground fault relays (GFRs for short) as part of all of their electrical equipment within mines in order to help improve and protect the safety of their miners by sensing and interrupting any ground-fault currents.
While the industry has worked on protections and resistance grounding in order to protect from these instances, they have not been able to develop protections for their personnel or equipment from arc-flash events – when a live phase conductor shorts out and directs to another phase that is not involved, or not grounded. This can be caused by damaged equipment or cables, faulty voltmeters, or faulty installations among other things.
Normally, these events strike during maintenance checks and they generate a large current that ionizes the air around the impacted conductor. This can result in extreme damage to equipment, burns and even death.
While PPE to protect workers from arc-flash events are crucial, there are now also electrical protective devices that can help limit the amount of currents and electricity released during an arc-flash event. These are called arc-flash relays, and they have been used as regular parts of mining safety protocols for a few years now. While they come with a high price tag, the protection they can provide both your mine personnel and equipment makes their price tag seem rather inexpensive.
This post was written by Justin Tidd, Director at Becker/SMC! For nearly a half a century, Becker Mining has been at the forefront of industry safety. Becker/SMC is the industry’s leader in increasingly more sophisticated electrical control systems. Most of the major innovations, design features and specialized electrical components have been developed by Becker/SMC.