A Canadian mining research organization presented information on new technology that could provide zero-emission solutions for mine ventilation.
Natural Heat Exchange Engineering (NHEET) technology, presented by the Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO), aims to provide low-cost, low-emissions cooling and air-warming solutions.
The project envisions using natural heat exchangers, often in the form of rocks, to manage mine temperatures. The NHEET system reuses waste rock to serve as a thermal energy storage system, shattered rock serves as storage medium, and temperature cycles provide the energy source.
A NHEET temperature management system is needed as global temperatures soar, said engineer Patrick Gareau. This system will also reduce peak refrigeration and heating demand during extreme weather events, the frequency of which is expected to increase as climate emissions increase.
The NHEET development project is co-managed by MIRARCO and Vale. Vale uses a NHEET system at its underground nickel, copper and PGE mine in Creighton, which allows the mine to operate without refrigeration at a depth of 2.5 kilometers.
A prototype outdoor heat exchanger was built at the NORCAT Innovation Center in Sudbury, Ontario.
Funding for this project is also provided by the Government of Canada, Teck, Vale and the Center for Smart Mining at Cambrian College.