The requirement for secondary egress from underground workings has long been regulated in Australia. Escape way systems have evolved from simple airleg rising ladders and timber ladders to steel galvanised ladders and more recently fully enclosed polyethylene ladders.
The polyethylene ladder, Safescape Laddertube, was introduced to the underground mining industry in 2010. It is an enclosed cylindrical modular plastic ladder designed for use in underground escape ways and access ways. Since its first installation in May 2010, the Laddertube has been installed in 43 mines across four countries, totalling 8800 m of ladders installed to December 2013.
The Cracow Gold mine is one operation using Laddertube, located 500 km north-west of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Upon discovering and developing both the Empire and Roses Pride orebodies, a safe and economically viable secondary egress system and surface primary ventilation exhaust shafts were necessary to support development and production activities to these workings. The need arose to merge these two critical requirements together between surface and underground mine workings some 200 m and 400 m respectively for each orebody. Neither egress has intermediate access points within their full service length from top to bottom. Several options were considered, the preferable and most feasible method adopted was Laddertube.
The longest egress length requiring Laddertube within the two vertical surface exhaust shafts was 400 m long, within a 3.5 m diameter shaft. Due to the length of the vertical Laddertube system in both egresses, personnel are to be assisted by mechanical means using the Extended Ladder Climb Assist system.
The Gossan Hill mine also uses Laddertube for their escape ways. Part of the Golden Grove operation, Gossan Hill is an underground sublevel open stoping mine located in the mid-west of Western Australia.
With a considerable mine life remaining and a history of acidic water and stress related deterioration in vertical openings, the mine operators sought an escape way solution that would provide for the long-term needs of Gossan Hill. Laddertube was selected due to its non-corrosive properties and the ability to fill in around the ladder way to provide stability to the raise opening.
Laddertube is a recent development in escape way systems,
and is effectively being applied in a variety of operations, meeting the
specific needs of underground mines.
Durkin, S, Hawkins, B and Lawrence, V, 2014. The application
of Safescape Ladders at the Cracow and Golden Grove operations, in
Proceedings 12th AusIMM Underground Operators' Conference 2014 , pp 311–318 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).