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Mine Exploration Forum

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Author Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
The Fresh Prince of Portreath

Joined: 05/08/2015

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 10:51:50
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I always found coal fascinating, but down here in Cornwall, we are limited to the bit of "floaty" drill cuttings and the odd lens here and there, rather than whacking great commercial seams.

I'm pretty well experienced exploring now and have found my way beyond the various dogma that infiltrates caving. "If you use a rack, you'll rig it wrong and die" "When you panic, you grab the stop handle and fall to your doom" etc, etc, etc.

Bad air is obviously a central problem with coal mines, I was wondering how many of you have been in coal mines, what your tales were, what sort of bad air gradients you get, what gases are typically present, how deadly it actually is.

Bad air down here in Cornwall is more common than you think. I'm well aware that what is considered a typical commercial alarm point is well above that which I can function in. I've seen a low of 10.4% oxygen, 3% CO2, enough H2S to feel very unwell and 60% LEL. I personally won't go below 11.3% O2 (higher than that if CO2 is present). I'd rather not SRT below 15% but I have been as low as 13.5%. Obviously, finding your own limits is something which takes years of pushing.

Quite clearly, exploring coal mines is bloody dangerous, reckless and talking about it is probably considered poor form, as no-one should be in any of these.

I read matey's midlands exploration thread and noted the comments about coal and thought "I wonder what people have done, what they found, what it was like, how lethal it was".

Many years ago, I remember Jagman etc, taking BA into a coal mine. EDITED or something. It looked very interesting. I remember years ago when I was at university in bristol, finding a coal related tunnel. I didn't have my gear with me and was worried about the air.

I'd be interested in reading about people's coal related anecdotes. So fire away.

For those of you who are reading this thinking "I want to go in a coal mine". a) don't. b). if you do, take all of the kit required, inc a 4 gas monitor in calibration, etc, etc, etc, watch the weather, etc, etc.
IP: 194.35.116.201 Edited: 05/06/2019 10:22:38 by The Fresh Prince of Portreath
John_Smith

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 12:06:39
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I always remember this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7512905.stm

Bloody dangerous.
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Moorebooks

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 12:55:26
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yOU COULD TRY fOREST OF dEAN WHERE THERE ARE STILL SMALL WORKING COAL MINES WITHOUT BAD AIR

Mike
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NewStuff

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 16:55:26
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The Fresh Prince of Portreath wrote:

"I wonder what people have done, what they found, what it was like, how lethal it was".


There's an adit I know of (no names or locations, it's open). Feel free to go in without BA, but you'll be fucked in short order, the air goes from "It's fine, what's all the fuss about" to "Oh ****!" rapidly. long-term migraine's, and general sickness afterwards. One of our club has a fairly cavalier attitude to that kind of thing, and he won't venture down it again, so read into that what you will.

--

Searching for the ever elusive Underground Titty Bar. DDDWH CC
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The Fresh Prince of Portreath

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Posted: 03/06/2019 17:02:41
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Interesting stuff. Presumably the problems were bought on by CO.

The water was down in Old Wheal Jane once and we got a long way into an area of stoping usually flooded. When we were climbing it, we were like zombies. The climb out took me about 30 mins, rather than about 5. I was ruined for a week afterwards. I suspect that was H2S, although the smell was marked by "the sulphidey smell".

I'd like to see a proper coal mine with a decent seam in situ. I suppose this is really unlikely, even going in places like Big Pit.
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robnorthwales

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Posted: 03/06/2019 17:32:02
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I know of a couple of 'sort-of' open locations in the area.
The problem is that the bad air areas can be really suddenly defined - you can go from 'perfectly fine' to 'feeling like there's a plastic bag over your head' in a few steps - and the gas monitor can go off as you try taking that breath in.
That happens, you are in big trouble



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jagman

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 17:54:26
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I've done a bit of coal and its fascinating but can be a little sketchy at times.
Please bear in mind I am no expert at all and most of the below is opinion and lacks any science. It may also lack cold hard fact!

There isn't really any way of knowing when you go in how much air there's going to be. One of the oddities is that it can go from really good air to really bad air in a very short distance.

There are still quite a lot of accessible coal workings dotted around the country, be cautious and you'll be okay.
Probably Big Grin

I've always tended to use a safety lamp rather than a meter, mainly because I was always to tight to buy a meter, but even with a meter you sometimes get very little warning that the air quality is dropping.
My knowledge of chemistry is non existent but one thing to bear in mind is that some things like hydrogen sulphide are heavier than air and I have been in one place where walking along a level the air seemed fine at head height but as you travel you disturb the bad air at knee/ankle level. The further you travel you are leaving poorer quality air behind you than when you first passed. That's normally the way you have to come back out.
I've had it once wading through water where the air quality deteriorated by doing so. We'll not discuss standing on a submerged dead badger as the memory of the smell is enough to make a man feel sick!

Bad air often settles in dips and hollows or blind headings with no air flow.
You can smell hydrogen sulphide but apparently one of its characteristics is that is deadens the sense of smell so rather than the smell getting stronger the more you are exposed the smell fades away.

In summary, exploring coal mines is great, but its a big boys game and it comes with severe risks.
Always remember lots and lots of coal miners died due to air quality and they were professionals. We aren't.
When they were working mines they had forced ventilation and lots of precautions, redundant mines don't have either.

There is also a mindset thing with the risk. When we did some places with BA kit and virtually no oxygen (below 8 or 10% if memory serves) we had a fairly lengthy discussion beforehand around what happens if somebody keels over because and the only practical course of action would have been to leave them

I am not one to preach and I've certainly done some very foolhardy things underground in years gone by. Nor am I the right person to advise on what is or isn't a good idea (my judgement isn't worth a toss)
But I would strongly advise that you read a lot before you try coal in areas that are known to be gassy or mines that have been sealed for a long time.
I would say that, on balance, in some coal mines getting out in one piece would be more luck than skill.

Sorry for sounding all melodramatic!
IP: 2.218.227.180 Edited: 03/06/2019 17:56:11 by jagman
Morlock

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 18:07:26
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"Sorry for sounding all melodramatic!"

Melodramatic or not it needed to be said.
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jagman

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Posted: 03/06/2019 18:21:01
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AirProducts guidance on oxygen levels below-
Bear in mind that these figures are for somebody not physically exerting themselves at all.
A North Pennines miner explained it to me that 12-15% you probably wouldn't make it out, below 12% you probably had less than 15 minutes to live.

Table 1:
Effects of Oxygen-Deficient Exposure
Oxygen concentration Health effects of persons at rest (% vol)

19 Some adverse physiological effects occur, but they may not be noticeable.

15–19 Impaired thinking and attention. Increased pulse and breathing rate. Reduced coordination. Decreased ability to work strenuously. Reduced physical and intellectual performance without awareness.

12–15 Poor judgment. Faulty coordination. Abnormal fatigue upon exertion. Emotional upset.

10–12 Very poor judgment and coordination. Impaired respiration that may cause permanent heart damage. Possibility of fainting within a few minutes without warning. Nausea and vomiting.

<10 Inability to move. Fainting almost immediate. Loss of consciousness. Convulsions. Death IP: 2.218.227.180 Edited: 03/06/2019 18:21:41 by jagman
legendrider

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 18:30:14
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The Fresh Prince of Portreath wrote:

I'd like to see a proper coal mine with a decent seam in situ. I suppose this is really unlikely, even going in places like Big Pit.


Caphouse, although I know its a bit out of your way.

Great discussion, but Coal is just bad news in every respect and any attempt to enter old coal workings is, at best, Edgeplay.

gan canny

MARK


--

festina lente IP: 82.25.240.225
Peter Burgess

Joined: 01/07/2008
Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 18:34:21
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No real anecdotes in coal mines, only one interesting experience in an iron mine at Coalbrookdale many moons ago. Clearly the lack of oxygen, as it was I think, affected a colleague's mind. He was using a candle to check the air, and couldn't even get a match to light (after the initial very brief chemical reaction). His logical conclusion was that it had to be dodgy matches. Blink


Other causes of enhanced CO2 include the exhalation of tens of thousands of worms in 100-year old mushroom compost.


Also, beware any underground site adjacent to a landfill site no matter how old the landfill might be.

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jagman

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Posted: 03/06/2019 18:40:43
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Peter Burgess wrote:

No real anecdotes in coal mines, only one interesting experience in an iron mine at Coalbrookdale many moons ago. Clearly the lack of oxygen, as it was I think, affected a colleague's mind. He was using a candle to check the air, and couldn't even get a match to light (after the initial very brief chemical reaction). His logical conclusion was that it had to be dodgy matches. Blink


Other causes of enhanced CO2 include the exhalation of tens of thousands of worms in 100-year old mushroom compost.


Also, beware any underground site adjacent to a landfill site no matter how old the landfill might be.



Apparently even oxygen levels of 19% can be sufficient to impair rational thought
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legendrider

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 03/06/2019 19:20:22
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jagman wrote:


Apparently even oxygen levels of 19% can be sufficient to impair rational thought


There are some muppets who struggle at 21% Smartass

MARK

--

festina lente IP: 82.25.240.225
Cat_Bones

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Posted: 03/06/2019 23:32:47
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I think I've probably mentioned this elsewhere on the site but I encountered bad air actually venting out of a small working in coal measures near Ironbridge, a few years back.
There was a dead bird lying by the entrance but I thought nothing of it. I turned my gas meter on and it went off immediately which I thought was weird as I was still outside. I wandered a few metres away and reset it but it still went off immediately, so I repeated it even further away with the same result. I assumed that the sensor was knackered and that the reading was false...

So I went in the hole which was a short drop into an adit and straight away it felt like someone was grabbing me around the chest and squeezing. The drop in was only 2 or 3 foot and it was a real effort to get back out and I felt rough for a good hour or so after.

I guess the previous comments about faculties being quickly affected aren't far wrong! Also, a good example of how having the right kit but not being familiar enough with it or even worse, trying to second-guess it, means you might as well have no kit at all.

It was really odd though... the guy who'd shown me the location had been in it himself a week earlier with no problems at all and reported that it only went a short distance anyway (though he hadn't got a proper torch with him so may have been mistaken).
I happened across the same location a while back amd luckily the coal board had sealed it off, leaving a ventilation pipe in place. Not something I'd be tempted to huff on.
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The Fresh Prince of Portreath

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Posted: 04/06/2019 08:09:41
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Interesting stuff folks. Thanks.

Talking of the dead bird anecdote, I was within a shaft hedge (with clwyd cap over the open shaft) and couldn't light my davy lamp. The lighter lit though (11.3-15% O2).

We (a medic mate and I) did quite a lot of testing on ourselves many years ago. It was partially due to reading about various atmospheres. (For those reading from outside of the website, I am a scientist). I was interested in going in United Mines at Gwennap, which has a landfill over it and the usual "you're going to either explode or die" was the usual dogma. I bought a 4 gas meter and then with it flashing and beeping all the time (sub alarm points levels being quite common) it begged the question "Where do I set the alarm points".

Mount Wellington Tin Mine is (used to be) a walk in. The back of it is sulphidey and is not ventilated. It often goes down to about 10% and is quite nasty. If you very carefully (as many do) proceed up the drive, it becomes more and more nasty, sweaty and generally uncomfortable. We went back in there with a whole variety of "kit" for testing the air, including a meter.

If I recall. (With no CO2)

Davy lamp running kerosene goes out about 15%
Zippo Lighter running petrol goes out about 14.5%
LPG cheap flint lighter flashes and flickers around 12-13% Will not light below 11.3%
At around 10.5% matches will react and then go out immediately.

I got a 2000L plastic bag and rigged myself up a Michael Hutchence whanking setup, which consisted of this bag being full of air, me inside it with a gas monitor, a load of cardboard boxes to fall on and a "rip this and it opens by my face" for my spectators, rigged up to the ceiling of the industrial unit. Cut a long story short, I breathed it down to 6% without too much trouble and was still going. I abandoned the test.

We discussed the role of oxygen in tissue fluids and how that can act as a reservoir. This was the thing at work. There are a whole load of factors at play here. It is quite complicated. We went back into Wellington. Got into the 10.5%-11.5% bit and Doc mate decided to do some exercise. Oddly enough, rather than blacking out, or getting tunnel vision, he had the symptoms of being drunk.

We had another one in Wheal Busy where we got through a section where the walls of a drive were lagged in gunge (snottites) and then got to a shaft station. We were sat there having a rest and my mate said "There's no air in here". With that, we exited. On my way along the tunnel, I got tunnel vision and then my vision (what was left of it) went pixellated. I thought "here I go". Went around a corner and it was fine.

CO2 is a frightening thing. I'd say from experience, that if you're huffing and puffing, CO2 is present. I had a high CO2 experience and almost didn't make it out.

This all sounds highly irresponsible, but know thyself as they say!

Talking of H2S, I used to make quite a lot of it and breathe quite a lot of it due to working with sulphides and poor lab technique. Anyway, cut a long story short, I'd not smell anything and then people coming into the other end of the lab would be like "facccckinnnelllllll" with the smell. It took me the best part of a year to get my smell back to normal. It really did ****** my nose right up.
IP: 89.238.154.116 Edited: 04/06/2019 08:23:20 by The Fresh Prince of Portreath
inbye

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 04/06/2019 08:33:19
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robnorthwales wrote:

I know of a couple of 'sort-of' open locations in the area.
The problem is that the bad air areas can be really suddenly defined - you can go from 'perfectly fine' to 'feeling like there's a plastic bag over your head' in a few steps - and the gas monitor can go off as you try taking that breath in.
That happens, you are in big trouble



I've done this and my experience was pretty much the description above. The mine was a closed NCB "deep " mine, which had a drift as a return airway, as well as the downcast shaft. The heavy wooden air doors were nailed shut but were persuaded to open. A very wet journey down the drift ended in a junction and some kind of huge sump arrangement (water was still being drawn out of this mine, due to nearby pits still working). Air still fine at this point. The left hand junction went in the direction of the downcast shaft, so this was followed. After a short distance it was clear I was approaching a steep downward drift, at the very top of this drift I took a lungful of absolutely nothing, the oddest feeling. I was stood upright and whatever gas it was appeared to be hung in a curtain. There were no ill effects (could have been a headache, it was exactly 50 years ago) but nothing that stopped me getting back up a fairly steep drift.
I have to say that I was a teenager and all teenagers are immortal, the year was 1969 and the colliery had closed in '64.
It was a coal mine and I'd advise against anyone going into one.



--

Regards, John... Huddersfield, best value for money in the country, spend a day there & it'll feel like a week........
IP: 94.196.147.176 Edited: 04/06/2019 08:35:05 by inbye
inbye

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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 04/06/2019 08:38:00
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No idea what I did in the post above, ended up looking like my post is tagged onto Rob's.
Sorry for confusion, my post is from the space down.


--

Regards, John... Huddersfield, best value for money in the country, spend a day there & it'll feel like a week........
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Praada

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Posted: 04/06/2019 09:23:55
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When coal is involved, i only do guided trips in working mines with fans on etc. Apedale is a brilliant tour i've recommended it a to a few guys now, I think its £5 per head (not much more) and well worth the visit.

Things like electronics and cheap head torches are a no go, using only the low volt tested cap lights provided by the tour.

We went down the extended tour, climbed ladders crawled up connecting tunnels, and visited the capped entrances to the lower levels and shafts.

Air pipes from the lower levels are left in to allow the ventilation of bad air, he set his gas meter at our head level and reading were fine, put the meter down to the floor where the pipe was and it was clear if we sat down, we weren't getting back up again!

--

"I got enough batteries to live down here indefinitely!"
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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 04/06/2019 10:06:14
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Avoid abseiling in, bring a gas detector, and try and keep it above 16%. Some coals have no problems with bad air, others are lethal as soon as you enter. Keep in mind the CA likes to ruin coal mines as soon as they find out about them. IP: 80.177.163.61
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Exploring Coal Mines - Gas?
Posted: 04/06/2019 10:15:13
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Praada wrote:

When coal is involved, i only do guided trips in working mines with fans on etc. Apedale is a brilliant tour i've recommended it a to a few guys now, I think its £5 per head (not much more) and well worth the visit.

Things like electronics and cheap head torches are a no go, using only the low volt tested cap lights provided by the tour.

We went down the extended tour, climbed ladders crawled up connecting tunnels, and visited the capped entrances to the lower levels and shafts.



Yes, I did the extended tour a while back and can't recommend it highly enough. Very impressive effort and probably as close as you'll get to exploring old coal workings without taking any of the risks detailed above.

It's definitely not your usual sanitised show mine tour, not suitable for the white stilletos and double buggy.
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