Things are getting brighter and smarter in underground mines thanks to entrepreneurs such as Dave Winfield, the president of Provix, an Ontario company that is providing a new all-in-one cap lamp technology for miners.
Winfield’s company and manufacturing plant is based in Alliston but there is also a sales office in Sudbury. He also had a sales booth at the Big Event Mine Expo in Timmins, held in June.
“We’re distributing the Provix Wisdom cap lamp which has the lithium ion battery integrated into the cap lamp shell,” Winfield explained as he held the entire unit in the palm of his hand.
Another obvious difference is that the lamp is self-contained and cordless, meaning the lamp is not attached to a battery that would be attached to the miner’s belt.
“This cap lamp is the brightest available and will run for approximately 20 hours with a re-charge. The thing about these cap lamps is that we have charging racks available but they can also charge via a USB cord just like your cell phone,” he said.
“So for contractors and supervisors who aren’t going into the mine as often, they are able to keep their own lamp independent of the charging rack and always have it ready to go based on the USB charger available in their vehicle or on the desktop,” he added.
The newer cordless lamps are a far cry from the iconic Koehler lamps which included a heavy lead-acid battery that was strapped onto a miner’s belt, together with a metre-long cord that connected to the lamp attached to the miner’s helmet. The Koehler lamp was the industry standard for more than half a century.
“The lead-acid battery represented their own danger with battery acid within the sealed case, which occasionally became not sealed,” said Winfield.
“With the new lithium ion battery technology we have a charging system that will withstand many, many charging cycles and obviously offers much less weight for the miners to carry,” he added.
Corded cap lamps were also an annoyance as the cord could be snagged or entangled in other machinery as the miner was working. Winfield said there were also complaints from miners who had bruised hips and sore muscles from the old style batteries. It is a different story with the cordless cap lamp.
“The feedback from personnel using the lamp has been excellent. It’s lighter. It’s brighter and it lasts much longer than a typical shift,” he said.
The newer lamp seems to be robust enough to withstand the wear and tear in underground mines.
“We are currently deployed at a Goldcorp mine, a Vale mine, a Kirkland Lake mine as well as some smaller mining operations in Quebec and Newfoundland,” said Winfield.
“We found the feedback has been excellent. The return rate on the lamps has been almost non-existent. It’s a very small percentage and of course they’re guaranteed for a full year,” he said.
Installation technicians are located across Canada as the company also sells and provides remote video systems for heavy industry.
Winfield also revealed that the newer lamp has two settings, one being bright and the other being extremely bright.
“What we found is that the light on the lower setting is as bright as most equivalent cap lamps.”
He said a brighter setting is provided for when miners need to inspect something more closely, such as ground conditions when they’re scaling.
Winfield also commented on one of the unwritten fundamental rules known to every underground miner.
‘What we found about the brightness setting is you better not use it when you’re looking at your partner, because you’re going to blind him. So you keep 'er on low, because that’s all you need.”
Len Gillis is the editor of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal. This article will appear in the September issue of that quarterly publication.