The 2008 Howard L. Hartman Award
Awarded To: John R. Marks
The Howard L. Hartman Award recognizes distinguished contributions in the practice, teaching, or research in the field of underground ventilation engineering.
I was stunned when first learning I would receive the 2008 Howard L. Hartman Award for mine ventilation. It’s among the most gratifying experiences of my life. Thanks so much to the UVC Award Committee for their consideration.
My comments tonight are entitled "Rewind & Fast Forward". For the rewind portion, I’d like to look back 36 years to when I first graduated and entered the field of mine ventilation. It was the golden age of Whillier, Hemp, Burrows; of Hartman, McPherson, Greuer, Ramani and others; giants who gave so freely of their wisdom and knowledge through teaching, writing, and mentoring. We here in this room have only one chance to reciprocate, and that is by giving in turn to the next generation of ventilation engineers. I can only hope we are half as successful.
During my junior years, digital network simulation was just coming into being. Kirchhoff and Hardy Cross were finally harnessed. Now, I hate to sound like a crotchety old timer (even if I am), but I’ve always taken perverse pride in being among the last class from the University of Idaho to graduate with a slide rule. Modern computer programs are wonderful, but it’s amazing how well mines were ventilated in the pre-computer days. Never forget that a computer is a mere tool. Be careful about using software you don’t totally understand. You, the engineer, must construct a meaningful network. You must prepare quality input. And you must interpret the results.
The other major effort I’ve noticed in my 36 years is a continuing refinement of what it takes to provide a safe, healthful and productive underground work environment. Ventilation engineers have come to better understand human physiology. Basic questions such as what is too hot or too cold or too humid, and what levels of toxic or dangerous contaminants are too much, have been fairly well answered. That said, I think that recognized carcinogens need to be assigned realistic TLVs instead of a blanket zero tolerance. Anyway, understanding these basic questions helps refine how much design airflow or cooling should be applied to work headings with differing conditions. Mine management seems to be coming around. Ventilation may have been looked on as an expensive nuisance in years past. Now the field is seen more as a contributor to a healthy bottom line.
The ventilation engineer is caught in a somewhat delicate situation: he or she is part of the management team, and yet is charged with looking out for the work force. The two can come into conflict. I have always believed that taking extra effort in justifying design parameters to management will help ease this conflict and thus help justify expensive ventilation projects. Management must come on board before they open the checkbook. Yes, ventilation is a cost function that should be minimized. Yet where do we draw the lines? Good ventilation IS cost-effective.
One trait I learned over the years is proper perspective. You must avoid losing site of the big picture by becoming stuck in your ventilation microcosm. While at Homestake, I continually reminded myself that we are mining gold, not ventilation. Another trait of a ventilation engineer comes to mind. My mentor, Dr. Chris Hall, once told me that engineers make mistakes, but the one mistake you should never make is letting production get ahead of development. Pertaining to ventilation, you must be able to anticipate where the production is heading and plan your ventilation upgrades in a timely manner. One final trait should permeate your design work. Einstein once advised to keep it simple as possible, but no simpler. Try to reduce as much as possible the number of air doors, regulators and booster fans in your circuit. One door left open can start a domino cascade of events that can ruin ventilation effectiveness. And, a simple circuit responds much more predictably to an emergency.
Fast-forwarding, what can we expect for our field in the future? Although we still wrestle with certain details such as diesel particulate standards, ventilation design parameters have been fairly well established. I don’t foresee any quantum-leap changes in computer applications either.
The future belongs to the most efficient. I think that ventilation on demand will become more and more important. On the airflow side, Steve Hardcastle at CANMET has been working on this for years. Airflow is provided to headings occupied by miners and is switched off and routed elsewhere when headings are vacant. Based on potential cost savings, I’m surprised that more companies are not employing such practices. Less than half of the production, development and exploration headings at the typical hardrock mine may be occupied at any given time due to the drill-blast-muck cycle. Ventilating all headings as if they were occupied is a very expensive proposition.
Now, regarding mine cooling, recent articles in the Journal of the Mine Ventilation Society of South Africa are addressing this issue. When operations reach 4-5 km depths, wasting refrigeration resources is not an option. Micro-climate systems might become more important. Cooling factors may be more complex than airflow. I remember turning off the main ventilation at the Lucky Friday mine over weekends in winter so shaft repair crews could work more comfortably, but then we got complaints that some production headings wouldn’t cool back off until Wednesday. I guess that without the occasional complaint, your mine is probably over-ventilated.
We will, in the not-too-distant future, send remote-controlled machinery and robots to do our mining for us. The reduced scope of ventilation at this time does not relieve the future engineer of the need for efficiency. In fact the opposite will be true when the engineer is faced with justifying equipment that will have limited demand.
In conclusion, I’d like to express a personal appreciation to my good friend Pierre Mousset-Jones for bearing the mine ventilation torch in the U.S. for all these years. And a most sincere thanks to Pierre, Keith Wallace and their staffs for this most wonderful Symposium.
Thank you very much.
The Howard L. Hartman Award, established in 1989, recognizes distinguished contributions in practice, teaching or research in the field of underground ventilation engineering.