Drainage-Controlling Factors


With the exception of drainage tunnels--more fully described in
Chapter VIII--all drainage must be mechanical. As the bulk of mine
water usually lies near the surface, saving in pumping can sometimes
be effected by leaving a complete pillar of ore under some of the
upper levels. In many deposits, however, the ore has too many channels
to render this of much avail.

There are six factors which enter into a determination of mechanical
drainage systems for metal mines:--

1. Volume and head of water.
2. Flexibility to fluctuation in volume and head.
3. Reliability.
4. Capital cost.
5. The general power conditions.
6. Mechanical efficiency.

In the drainage appliances, more than in any other feature of the
equipment, must mechanical efficiency be subordinated to the other

FLEXIBILITY.--Flexibility in plant is necessary because volume and
head of water are fluctuating factors. In wet regions the volume
of water usually increases for a certain distance with the extension
of openings in depth. In dry climates it generally decreases with the
downward extension of the workings after a certain depth. Moreover,
as depth progresses, the water follows the openings more or less
and must be pumped against an ever greater head. In most cases
the volume varies with the seasons. What increase will occur, from
what horizon it must be lifted, and what the fluctuations in volume
are likely to be, are all unknown at the time of installation. If
a pumping system were to be laid out for a new mine, which would
peradventure meet every possible contingency, the capital outlay would
be enormous, and the operating efficiency would be very low during
the long period in which it would be working below its capacity. The
question of flexibility does not arise so prominently in coal-mines,
for the more or less flat deposits give a fixed factor of depth.
The flow is also more steady, and the volume can be in a measure
approximated from general experience.

RELIABILITY.--The factor of reliability was at one time of more
importance than in these days of high-class manufacture of many
different pumping systems. Practically speaking, the only insurance
from flooding in any event lies in the provision of a relief system
of some sort,--duplicate pumps, or the simplest and most usual
thing, bailing tanks. Only Cornish and compressed-air pumps will
work with any security when drowned, and electrical pumps are easily

GENERAL POWER CONDITIONS.--The question of pumping installation
is much dependent upon the power installation and other power
requirements of the mine. For instance, where electrical power is
purchased or generated by water-power, then electrical pumps have
every advantage. Or where a large number of subsidiary motors can be
economically driven from one central steam- or gas-driven electrical
generation plant, they again have a strong call,--especially if
the amount of water to be handled is moderate. Where the water
is of limited volume and compressed-air plant a necessity for the
mine, then air-driven pumps may be the most advantageous, etc.

MECHANICAL EFFICIENCY.--The mechanical efficiency of drainage machinery
is very largely a question of method of power application. The
actual pump can be built to almost the same efficiency for any
power application, and with the exception of the limited field
of bailing with tanks, mechanical drainage is a matter of pumps.
All pumps must be set below their load, barring a few possible
feet of suction lift, and they are therefore perforce underground,
and in consequence all power must be transmitted from the surface.
Transmission itself means loss of power varying from 10 to 60%,
depending upon the medium used. It is therefore the choice of
transmission medium that largely governs the mechanical efficiency.

SYSTEMS OF DRAINAGE.--The ideal pumping system for gold mines
would be one which could be built in units and could be expanded
or contracted unit by unit with the fluctuation in volume; which
could also be easily moved to meet the differences of lifts; and
in which each independent unit could be of the highest mechanical
efficiency and would require but little space for erection. Such
an ideal is unobtainable among any of the appliances with which
the writer is familiar.

The wide variations in the origin of power, in the form of transmission,
and in the method of final application, and the many combinations
of these factors, meet the demands for flexibility, efficiency,
capital cost, and reliability in various degrees depending upon
the environment of the mine. Power nowadays is generated primarily
with steam, water, and gas. These origins admit the transmission of
power to the pumps by direct steam, compressed air, electricity,
rods, or hydraulic columns.

DIRECT STEAM-PUMPS.--Direct steam has the disadvantage of radiated
heat in the workings, of loss by the radiation, and, worse still,
of the impracticability of placing and operating a highly efficient
steam-engine underground. It is all but impossible to derive benefit
from the vacuum, as any form of surface condenser here is impossible,
and there can be no return of the hot soft water to the boilers.

Steam-pumps fall into two classes, rotary and direct-acting; the former
have the great advantage of permitting the use of steam expansively
and affording some field for effective use of condensation, but
they are more costly, require much room, and are not fool-proof.
The direct-acting pumps have all the advantage of compactness and
the disadvantage of being the most inefficient of pumping machines
used in mining. Taking the steam consumption of a good surface
steam plant at 15 pounds per horse-power hour, the efficiency of
rotary pumps with well-insulated pipes is probably not over 50%,
and of direct-acting pumps from 40% down to 10%.

The advantage of all steam-pumps lies in the low capital outlay,--hence
their convenient application to experimental mining and temporary
pumping requirements. For final equipment they afford a great deal
of flexibility, for if properly constructed they can be, with slight
alteration, moved from one horizon to another without loss of relative
efficiency. Thus the system can be rearranged for an increased
volume of water, by decreasing the lift and increasing the number
of pumps from different horizons.

COMPRESSED-AIR PUMPS.--Compressed-air transmission has an application
similar to direct steam, but it is of still lower mechanical efficiency,
because of the great loss in compression. It has the superiority
of not heating the workings, and there is no difficulty as to the
disposal of the exhaust, as with steam. Moreover, such pumps will
work when drowned. Compressed air has a distinct place for minor
pumping units, especially those removed from the shaft, for they
can be run as an adjunct to the air-drill system of the mine, and
by this arrangement much capital outlay may be saved. The cost of
the extra power consumed by such an arrangement is less than the
average cost of compressed-air power, because many of the compressor
charges have to be paid anyway. When compressed air is water-generated,
they have a field for permanent installations. The efficiency of
even rotary air-driven pumps, based on power delivered into a good
compressor, is probably not over 25%.

ELECTRICAL PUMPS.--Electrical pumps have somewhat less flexibility
than steam- or air-driven apparatus, in that the speed of the pumps can
be varied only within small limits. They have the same great advantage
in the easy reorganization of the system to altered conditions of
water-flow. Electricity, when steam-generated, has the handicap
of the losses of two conversions, the actual pump efficiency being
about 60% in well-constructed plants; the efficiency is therefore
greater than direct steam or compressed air. Where the mine is
operated with water-power, purchased electric current, or where
there is an installation of electrical generating plant by steam or
gas for other purposes, electrically driven pumps take precedence
over all others on account of their combined moderate capital outlay,
great flexibility, and reasonable efficiency.

In late years, direct-coupled, electric-driven centrifugal pumps
have entered the mining field, but their efficiency, despite makers'
claims, is low. While they show comparatively good results on low
lifts the slip increases with the lift. In heads over 200 feet
their efficiency is probably not 30% of the power delivered to the
electrical generator. Their chief attractions are small capital
cost and the compact size which admits of easy installation.

ROD-DRIVEN PUMPS.--Pumps of the Cornish type in vertical shafts,
if operated to full load and if driven by modern engines, have
an efficiency much higher than any other sort of installation,
and records of 85 to 90% are not unusual. The highest efficiency
in these pumps yet obtained has been by driving the pump with rope
transmission from a high-speed triple expansion engine, and in
this plant an actual consumption of only 17 pounds of steam per
horse-power hour for actual water lifted has been accomplished.

To provide, however, for increase of flow and change of horizon,
rod-driven pumps must be so overpowered at the earlier stage of
the mine that they operate with great loss. Of all pumping systems
they are the most expensive to provide. They have no place in crooked
openings and only work in inclines with many disadvantages.

In general their lack of flexibility is fast putting them out of
the metal miner's purview. Where the pumping depth and volume of
water are approximately known, as is often the case in coal mines,
this, the father of all pumps, still holds its own.

HYDRAULIC PUMPS.--Hydraulic pumps, in which a column of water is
used as the transmission fluid from a surface pump to a corresponding
pump underground has had some adoption in coal mines, but little
in gold metal mines. They have a certain amount of flexibility but low
efficiency, and are not likely to have much field against electrical

BAILING.--Bailing deserves to be mentioned among drainage methods,
for under certain conditions it is a most useful system, and at
all times a mine should be equipped with tanks against accident
to the pumps. Where the amount of water is limited,--up to, say,
50,000 gallons daily,--and where the ore output of the mine permits
the use of the winding-engine for part of the time on water haulage,
there is in the method an almost total saving of capital outlay.
Inasmuch as the winding-engine, even when the ore haulage is finished
for the day, must be under steam for handling men in emergencies,
and as the labor of stokers, engine-drivers, shaft-men, etc., is
therefore necessary, the cost of power consumed by bailing is not
great, despite the low efficiency of winding-engines.

COMPARISON OF VARIOUS SYSTEMS.--If it is assumed that flexibility,
reliability, mechanical efficiency, and capital cost can each be
divided into four figures of relative importance,--_A_, _B_, _C_,
and _D_, with _A_ representing the most desirable result,--it is
possible to indicate roughly the comparative values of various
pumping systems. It is not pretended that the four degrees are of
equal import. In all cases the factor of general power conditions
on the mine may alter the relative positions.

|Direct|Compressed| |Steam-| |
|Steam | Air |Electricity|Driven|Hydraulic|Bailing
|Pumps | | | Rods | Columns | Tanks
Flexibility. | _A_ | _A_ | _B_ | _D_ | _B_ | _A_
Reliability. | _B_ | _B_ | _B_ | _A_ | _D_ | _A_
Mechanical | | | | | |
Efficiency.| _C_ | _D_ | _B_ | _A_ | _C_ | _D_
Capital Cost | _A_ | _B_ | _B_ | _D_ | _D_ | --

As each mine has its special environment, it is impossible to formulate
any final conclusion on a subject so involved. The attempt would lead
to a discussion of a thousand supposititious cases and hypothetical
remedies. Further, the description alone of pumping machines would
fill volumes, and the subject will never be exhausted. The engineer
confronted with pumping problems must marshal all the alternatives,
count his money, and apply the tests of flexibility, reliability,
efficiency, and cost, choose the system of least disadvantages,
and finally deprecate the whole affair, for it is but a parasite
growth on the mine.

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