Safer Mine Hoisting With Conveyance Position and Load Monitoring
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Safer Mine Hoisting With Conveyance Position and Load Monitoring

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    BACKGROUND A mine shaft is the lifeline to underground mines. Mine operators depend on safe, uninterrupted, and efficient movement of workers and materials. The shaft and hoisting system provides access to the network of openings used to recover the underground resource, provides vertical transport of miners and materials, and serves as an escapeway in case of an emergency. Accidents involving hoisting can be catastrophic. Such was the case in 1973 at the Markham Colliery in Derbyshire, UK when the conveyance overwound and fell to the shaft bottom, resulting in 17 deaths. Hoist and elevator machinery must meet the requirements specified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 57 and 75. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) data, many shaft-related accidents in the United States are associated with the hoisting cycle. MSHA statistics show that there were about 1500 shaft- related accidents in the 5-year period between 1992-1996. Most of these accidents resulted from the action, motion, or failure of the hoisting equipment or mechanism and involved movement of the conveyance which includes cages, skips, ore buckets, and elevators. A hoisting hazard may be characterized as an "unsafe hoist operating condition caused by insufficient or inaccurate information available to the hoist operator" (authors' quote). Earlier investigators have defined safety features and operating and maintenance standards for hoists, and reported on monitoring and control systems and sensors for hoists and conveyances [Farley, 1983; Ward, 19931. However, despite the considerable technological progress and hoisting control improvements in recent years, safety- related issues that require further investigation still remain. The hoist operator must constantly be aware of two important hoist-operating conditions: the position of the conveyance and the tension in the hoist rope. If this information is not available or is inaccurate, the hoist becomes unsafe. Current technology provides this information indirectly from sensors and indicators in the hoist room. However, unlike a building elevator hoist way, mine shaft hoist way problems often include: 1. poor ground conditions and excessive shaft wall and guide displacement; 2. rock bursts in deep mines (resulting in large rock movements and fragments blocking the hoist way); 3. water, ice, and salt buildup (impeding the smooth flow of the conveyance); 4. severe vibration from hoisting (resulting in loose guide support brackets, broken welds, or other alignment and conveyance mechanism malfunctions). The second issue relates to dynamic rope loads applied during normal winding, particularly during loading, acceleration, and stopping. Safety factors on wire rope are based on static load. They are artificially high to account for all cases of dynamic loads, even though the total load history on the rope (static and dynamic) during service is unknown. Therefore the tension, and thus the compliance with wire rope load safety factors, is unknown to the hoist man.
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