Intense temperatures, humidity, diesel fumes and gases are health hazards for underground miners. This makes good ventilation non-negotiable, according to Miguel Coelho, Ventilation Engineer at BBE Group, mine ventilation, refrigeration and cooling engineering consultants. He notes that with so many complex factors impacting environmental conditions, dangerous shifts can be hard to predict.

BBE has therefore made a bold move to offer their solution: VUMA-network software- an interactive mine ventilation network simulation tool, with its ability to simulate multiple variables, to the industry free of charge. The software addresses the issues mentioned driving system optimisation and energy efficiency, a critical cost and operational factor for mines in South Africa. “Making it available to industry at no cost puts everyone ahead,” says Coelho.

The software was developed by the CSIR in the early 1990s for use in South African mines. It was acquired in 2009 by BBE and has evolved and been developed, using global project experience over 20 years, to plan, design, operate and troubleshoot ventilation and cooling systems in underground mines. Built on a Microsoft platform, its recent upgrade advances it to 64-bit computing with a supercharged graphics engine. With support for different languages, namely Chinese, Polish, and Spanish, and the integration of country-specific features and design criteria, it is fit for global use. In addition, the software is vendor agnostic, which means it will integrate will all major industry software and solutions.

VUMA-network graphic visualisation of ventilation networks. Photo credit: BBE Group

VUMA-network graphic visualisation of ventilation networks. Photo credit: BBE Group

BBE’s VUMA suite of software comprises VUMA-network, now available at no cost to industry, and VUMA-live and VUMA-lev, additions that can be acquired.

  • VUMA-live uses various sensors and technologies to create a digital twin of a mine’s systems, providing real-time risk analysis, risk management and rapid responses to any alarms. Through virtualisation of the ventilation system with real-time visualisation of performance and environmental conditions, it supports safety and productivity, helps improve energy management, enables proactive optimisation of the ventilation network, and takes mines closer to autonomous on-demand ventilation provision.
  • VUMA-LEV is focused on local exhaust ventilation (LEV). It is an engineering control system that captures dusts, vapours, and fumes at their source of generation and transports them away from the workers’ breathing zone. This prevents workers from inhaling these substances and reduces contamination levels.

VUMA-live and –LEV essentially overlay VUMA-network with real-time and measured data. With this data, users can generate instant reports and proactively identify the development of potentially dangerous conditions.

“With advanced simulation technology, mining and ventilation engineers can gain complete control over the crucial ventilation and cooling aspects of mining processes across a range of mining methods,” notes Coelho. “This is especially important as energy costs rise and safety regulations ramp up. With mine planning software becoming increasingly sophisticated, the kind of graphic ventilation network detail and troubleshooting that software like VUMA-network can provide is becoming invaluable.”