Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are fast becoming the technology of choice for lighting applications in the mining industry. These solid state devices have no moving parts, no fragile glass environments, no mercury, no toxic gasses, and no filament.
There is nothing to break, rupture, shatter, leak, or contaminate. Unlike typical conventional light sources, LEDs are not subject to sudden failure or burnout. There is no point in time at which the light source ceases to function; instead, LEDs gradually degrade in performance over time. The solid state nature of LEDs make them an excellent choice for applications where reliability, dependability and safety are paramount.
Unlike conventional light sources, LEDs are current driven low voltage devices. This enables never before solutions that meet regulatory requirements without expensive safety modifications. Due to the low voltages required, disposable and rechargeable battery operation or alternative energy sources (such as solar or wind) can be easily used to power the light source.
Gold Coast-based solar powered LED lighting supplier Orion Solar, has worked with a number of mine sites around the country to light mine site roadways, hazards and equipment.
Orion's managing director John Holliday says that solar LED lighting has numerous applications in the mining industry. "We started operations five years ago by supplying other mission-critical industries like marine and aviation for navigation and landing aids. Just as in mining, those industries use our lights in situations where safety is foremost," he said. "Our first success in mining resulted from the supply of safety warning lights to show the edges of a road or an open cut mine and we have gone on to supply such lights to the operations of Origin Energy, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Placer Dome."
The applications for solar LED lighting in the mining industry are extremely varied. A recent installation of Orion's area lighting illuminates a water truck filling station at Ashton Coal in the Hunter Valley. The engineers at Ashton specified a split time output capability and the ability to perform during 14 hours of darkness in winter.
The solution supplied has a battery capacity to last for 10 days without charge and only requires four hours of full sun to recharge to full capacity. In the mining industry, where hard wired power is not always available, this means that areas can now be lit which previously were left in the dark. Parking lot area lights can be equipped with motion sensors to automatically switch the brightness of the light when a person or vehicle arrives.
Orion now has the ability to offer other LED based products to the mining industry in addition to those based on solar power. Examples include the supply of retrofit LED luminaires to replace light bulbs, with the advantage of longer life, an improved quality of light and lower energy costs. Another example is a miner's safety helmet lamp which includes a rechargeable battery and LED light in a single 125g assembly. Once fully charged the unit will operate for 12 hours at full power or up to 70 hours in power save mode.
The future of lighting in the mining industry will rely heavily upon the use of LEDs and one of the major benefits of that trend will be the higher level of safety that will be achieved as a result.