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Underground Mine Refuge Chambers Keep Workers Safe

Protecting workers in underground mines requires investing in robust systems to identify and control hazards before any work can begin, while also building in backup systems to protect our people in the event an emergency does occur.

This includes specialized training and regular drills for our emergency response teams and underground mine personnel that involves practice in using underground refuge chambers designed to protect employees in the event of an emergency such as a fire, ground failure or loss of ventilation.

A refuge chamber is a self-contained, reinforced steel room that provides a safe retreat for underground miners in the event of an emergency. Depending on their size, these chambers can safely hold and sustain between eight and 30 people each. In situations where evacuation is neither a safe or practical option, miners can seek shelter in a chamber, which is stocked with enough water, oxygen and other basic needs for at least 36 hours.

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In 2015, Newmont partnered with MineARC Systems, the leading worldwide supplier of mine refuge chambers, to bring the best in mine rescue technology to Newmont’s underground operations.

Leading up to the partnership, a cross-functional team of Newmont’s mine engineers, safety professionals and Mine Rescue technicians worked together to establish a single standard for refuge chambers.

The newly designed underground refuge chambers comply with the highest international standards and are recognized for applying industry best-practices in all their designs.

The chambers are equipped with optimum safety features that include:

  • Airlock

– Separate air flushing to ensure air quality in the chamber remains safe

  • Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide scrubbing

– Three forms of breathable air inside, including compressed mine air, breathable oxygen cylinders, and an oxygen candle and igniter match which are approved for military use on submarines and generate 2,600L of pure oxygen from a reaction with sodium chlorate and iron

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Take a tour inside an underground mine refuge chamber in this training video from MineARC.

While the majority of Newmont’s mining operations are currently surface mines, we recognize that our future in many locations lies in underground mining. In anticipation of this, we are taking steps to leverage our considerable underground mining expertise at our Tanami mine in Australia and our Carlin underground mines in Nevada to build safe systems for our new Ahafo underground portal in Ghana.

To learn more about Newmont’s commitment to zero harm, please visit our 2015 Beyond the Mine sustainability report.

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