On September 13, 2022, Future of Mining 365 interviewed Lynn Edwards, project manager at Midwest, about the MineKleen underground mine dust control system. The MineKleen® system includes MineKleen Plus® and the MineKleen® Sprayer. More information can be found at MineKleen.com. A transcript of the video is provided below.
Jax: Hello, and welcome to Future of Mining 365. I’m mining magazine WD editor Jax Jacobson and I’m here today with Lynn Edwards from Midwest to discuss Midwest’s underground mine dust control program, MineKleen. MineKleen can achieve up to 95% reduction in operation dust while reducing water consumption by over 95%. Welcome, Lynn. Thanks very much for coming today.
Lynn: Good morning, thank you.
Jax: Can you, in general terms, describe the dust control problem underground mine face.
Lynn: Yes. In a nutshell, mining is making big rocks into little rocks and in that process you create dust every time you fracture a rock. You create dust when you drive on it. You crush it.
When your ventilation systems blow it around. exhaust, system was blow it around. So it’s, it’s an, it’s part of the process. You cannot get away from it. So the bigger question is, how do you handle it? How do you control it? What do you do with it? And that’s when we come into the equation. Everyone needs to control dust underground. Of course, there are exceptions to all rooms. There are some very wet mines where they just do not have problems. That’s not the norm. Most have a problem of some sort and the dust comes off of the the roads or the drifts, then it gets on the ribs or the walls; it gets onto the stealing and the exhaust just move it. The ventilation systems move it throughout the mine. Where we come in is mitigating it; controlling it to an acceptable level.
Whatever the mine, they will have some norm or some standard that they need to meet and we will help them achieve that.
Jax: Okay, so for this dust problem, what solutions are in use today and how well do these solutions work?
Lynn: There are many solutions or ways people attack this They’ll use water; just groundwater that’s in the mine. They’ll use lignosulfonates. They’ll use calcium chloride or magnesium chloride or at times some people, they just don’t do anything, just let it go. All of those create problems. water is the thing that people think is cheap, it’s there it’s free. Sometimes you have to get rid of it, you have too much of it.
When you put that on the road, it does suppress dust. It doesn’t instantly. The problems with it is that it washes the fines out of the road. It destabilizes the roads. But it also dries very quickly because you’ve got the ventilation systems with high air velocities. It just dries it quick like, blowing a hair dryer on it. It just dries it out, so it’s very short lived. The water’s free, but it’s very labor intensive.
Lignins last a lot longer than water but it needs to be rewatered periodically. When you do water, it washes away, it can end up in sumps and cause water treatment issues, potentially. Calcium chloride, magnesium chloride … again, very effective, but very corrosive and very slippery when they’re wet.
So those are the primary things that we see people doing on an ongoing basis trying to control dust.
It also comes down to how much dust control you really want. People say they want dust control and you get a little bit but they don’t have really compliance-level dust control.
We’re bringing that to the party where we will meet environmental standards that you need to meet to operate.
Jax: Okay great. So moving into that. You touched on it a little bit. So why is MineKleen so different?
Lynn: MineKleen is a synthetic material. There’s no water in it. There’s a binder in it. It doesn’t have a shelf life. It can be sprayed or stored in any temperature. So it’s very easy to use, you don’t have to, you don’t have to dilute with water, you don’t have to have any special handling systems and it because it is sprayed meat or without water, you don’t use large volumes of it.
So it’s very easy to bring MineKleen and the MineKleen system to bear on dust control. You can do it quickly and relatively easily. You can get going on this in a matter of a day. We could have it there and you could be spraying it tomorrow. It’s that simple.
Jax: Great. So you have a dust control product and a sprayer that is custom to underground mines. So does Midwest manage the service or is it DIY once you get an underground mine up and running?
Lynn: Part of what makes the whole MineKleen system is what Midwest does. If you, the operator says, I want to look at dust control, we will show up. We will come and visit the site. We will assess, what are your objectives? What’s the goal here we’re trying to do? Can we do it? I mean, all mines in all areas are not candidates for what we do. We’ll tell you that going in.
I’ll say, look, I can help you here, but I cannot help you here and then we begin to put a program together. That’s what we’re doing… focusing on where and what we can do. The system we developed – the spray system – was with one of our customers in Ontario.
We developed this thing there could be used easily that they could use with our training. They can use it with existing equipment that they have underground. It’ll spray the road or the drift. It’ll spray the ribs, and it can spray the roof — all simultaneously. So it’s very unique in what it can do.
And it’s durable, it’s made for that environment. They helped us. They broke more than one while we were trying to get these things while we got it perfected. There is a point where they’re very, very reliable and they last for more than a year underground, which is a challenge itself.
But we can do that and we come in and train. I mean, we’ll spend … if there’s three shifts or two shifts, we’ll stay there and train people on every shift. It usually takes three days, five days, but we’re gonna be there and get their people comfortable with using it.
So, it is DIY at that point, but getting there, you’re not doing on your own. It’s not like you ordered something on the internet, it shows up and you hope for the best. We’re going to be there before, during, and after.
Jax: And so does this save money, human resources, application time or is MineKleen just a better way to control dust?
Lynn: It is a better way of controlling dust but does it save money? It can. But go back to what we talked about initially.,A lot of people are going through the motion of trying to control dust but not doing a very good job.
So if you’re controlling dust and doing a job that no one is happy with, I’m not going to save you money because you’re not spending enough to do the job in the first place. I’m going to do the job. I will get it done and it will be effective to meet your objectives, but it may not be cheaper.
But if you’re spraying enough water to control the dust to meet your objectives, I [Midwest] would be cheaper than that. Because we don’t have all the labor. Our inputs are so small. We will spray once per month and you might spray — with water — four, five, six, or eight times per day!
And I’m going to do it once a month. So, the savings of labor, the input of labor, the fact that you’re not on the roads, in the way of production equipment. So there are savings that are incremental. You go through these things and look at what we’re gaining? And how are we getting it? That’s where we’re saving … It’s just time. We’re picking up a lot of time and most importantly, we’re controlling the dust.
Jax: Excellent. And so talk to me about an example or a case study, where this has worked well.
Lynn: I have not personally been at the site. There are, I think three or four in Ontario, the Sudbury Timmons area. And there’s a couple of British Columbia that have been in a field for more than a year. That’s where we started, and that’s where we developed and perfected, the MineKleen Spray System.
And that’s where most of the volume of our progress is going. Now, we’re on the verge of starting a project in Nevada underground. So that’ll be our first, bringing us into the U.S. But we do have ongoing operations up there and we have actual people if they want to talk to them – more than willing to have dialogue with someone, if someone would like to learn more about it from a user, not from a vendor.
Jax: Sure, fantastic. So is there anything else that you’d like to add about the Midwest underground mine dust control program?
Lynn: Well, I think we touched briefly a little earlier. You can Google “dust control” You can find many many things that’ll come up and everybody will sell you, “Hey, we’ll ship this to you and you do this and it’s gonna be great.” That rarely, if ever, happens. And the reason we go to the expense of doing site visits, going to learn what you’re doing, what your unique problems are, because every mine is unique. What worked in Colorado won’t necessarily work in Sudbury and vice versa. So part of what we bring to the table is the knowledge and the expertise of going to a site, assessing it, and discovering what is going on there. And how can we help. And then we put together the program on how to do it. Then we will be there to implement it.
I have 38 years of dust control with Midwest. I’ve worked there and nothing ever goes off as planned. So you say, “this is what we’re going to do tomorrow on day one.” We start that way, but that’s not how we end the day. So we have to be there to adapt and make this happen. Get through it and establish what we do. And that’s where we’re really, really unique. I don’t know of any competitor we have that will go do those services… much less provide as part of the pricing.
Jax: Okay, fantastic. Well, thank you very much for your time and for walking us through this product, MineKleen.
Lynn: Thank you! Thank you for having me.