Today, mining is an industry that relies heavily on mechanical and electrical machinery. Mines are extreme environments that can either be very cold or hot as a desert and most of the work is done below sea level. All this can take a toll not only on people but also the machines involved in the mining process.
It is important to use thermal cameras in a mining environment because if visible light or digital cameras are used for monitoring they will miss out on any potential defects as mining environments are often very dusty. Thermal can see through dust and smoke due to their infrared wavelength, meaning that it is able to detect any heat energy through most environmental conditions.
Thermal Cameras in a mining environment can be fixed or handheld depending on the type of machinery that is being monitored. For example, trucks and lorries are used in the transportation of metals or minerals and often a mechanical survey of the engine should be carries out to check all is in working order, this can be quickly and easily done with a handheld thermal imager. An example of where a fixed camera might be best used is when condition monitoring a conveyor belt, if there is a slight rise in temperature staff can intervene by slowing down the conveyor belt or schedule in maintenance work to be carried out on the conveyor belt instead of causing a sudden halt to the system, which could upset other mining processes. Continuous miners can also be monitored with a fixed or handheld thermal camera to check for any damage to the bearings. These machines are heavily relied on in the mining process with unplanned maintenance can cause maintenance costs to soar while the mining has come to a halt.
In the case of coal mining, often coal is stored in vast quantities in large storage containers. This can lead to high risk of a fire. It is very important to carrying out temperature monitoring of these coal containers as self-ignition can easily take place from the bottom of the pile. It is important to take regular thermal surveys of the bottom to look for any hot spots as this would be a sign of ignition.