Refuge chambers are a regular safety feature in underground mines and tunnels all around the world. Growth in the underground construction industry is fuelling even greater demand for these solid steel portable chambers, which feature their own internal life support systems to provide safe haven protection for underground personnel in the event of fire, smoke, explosion, gas build-up or collapse.
During the past decade, refuge chambers have become increasingly common within the global tunnelling industry. The inherent dangers during the construction phase, in particular, are similar to those faced in underground mining and therefore require a safety solution that adequately mitigates the risks involved.
Legislation has also been forthcoming. The current British Standard (BS EN) relating to Safety Requirements for Tunneling Machinery (BS 16191: 2014) and the ITA Guideline for the Provision of Refuge Chambers in Tunnels Under Construction (2014) both officially recognise the importance of emergency refuge systems in tunnelling.
“Ever since the British Standard and ITA Legislation, here at MineARC Systems we’ve seen an increase in the number of projects coming through globally,” said James Geldart, MineARC Systems International Sales Manager.
“As a result, we have engineered a range of tunnelling refuge chambers that can comply with either the ITA or BS EN Guidelines, designed specifically for use in a variety of applications; including gantry and rail-mounted models for TBMs, and standalone chambers for conventional drill+blast projects.”
The average portable MineARC Refuge Chamber typically accommodates up to 30 people, with internal life-support systems capable of providing an airtight, safe environment for up to 96hrs (4 days). Common features of a tunnelling chamber include a fully integrated compressed air management system, CO and CO2 scrubbing, positive pressure maintenance and standalone battery Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS).
Since building its first tunnelling refuge chamber for the Dublin Port Project in 2003, MineARC has been involved in projects all around the world – developing increasingly customized refuge solutions for all the major manufacturers and contractors, including Herrenknecht, Caterpillar, Robbins, Leighton, Nishimatsu, Bilfinger Berger and Hitachi.
Only recently, MineARC commissioned the first of 14 refuge chambers for use during construction of the €7 billion Lyon–Turin passenger and freight rail link.
The custom-designed refuge chamber features a unique self-contained misting system - a first for MineARC. Developed to assist in heat suppression, the system emits a fine mist around the exterior of the chamber. The mist is set to a droplet size that flash evaporates under high temperatures, creating a temperature barrier around the chamber, which, in turn, maintains an internal environment that is life-sustaining.
MineARC has also recently commissioned a number of chambers in collaboration with Herrenknecht, a long-standing client. MineARC Gantry Mounted Refuge Chambers were selected for the German manufacturer’s TBMs for use on large-scale excavations including the German Bossler Tunnel Project and the Austrian Brenner Tunnel Project.