NFPA 122: Standard for Fire Prevention and Control in Metal/Nonmetal Mining and Metal Mineral Processing Facilities
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What is NFPA 122?
NFPA 122: Document Scope

1.1* Scope. A.1.1 Because of the uniqueness and often remoteness of metal and nonmetal mines and ore processing facilities, provisions in this standard could differ from commonly accepted fire protection standards and guides devised for other types of occupancies. The provisions of this document are considered necessary to provide a reasonable level of protection from loss of life and property from fire and explosions. They reflect situations and the state of the art at the time the standard was issued. As of 2001, there were 12,479 metal/nonmetal mining and processing operation in the United States. In the most recent 12-year period, approximately 515 fires of all types were reported. Fires and explosions in mines and mineral processing plants have caused major loss of property, production equipment, buildings, and business interruption. In the five-year period from 1994 to 1998, mines and quarries of all types averaged $12.3 million a year in direct damage in fires reported to U.S. local fire departments. In the same period, nonmetallic mineral processing and product manufacturing facilities averaged $16.1 million a year in direct damage in fires reported to U.S. local fire departments. (For more information, see the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, 2008 edition, Chapter 9, Section 9.16.) Fires adversely affect all areas of mining and mineral processing operations, including underground and surface self propelled and mobile mining equipment, underground fuel storage areas, surface ore concentrating and processing buildings and equipment, and support facilities associated with these activities. Fire and related hazards in metal ore processing facilities include but are not limited to conveyor belts; rubber lined equipment; combustible and flammable reagents; gaseous, liquid, or solid fuels; mineral extraction solvents and carriers; dielectric, thermal, and lubricating oils; hydraulic fluids; grouped plastic electric cables; and combustible construction. Significant fire and explosions have occurred in concentrator mills due to these hazards. Ignition sources for these hazards are present and cannot always be controlled. The most common ignition source in this industry is uncontrolled hot work. Control and awareness of combustible loading, including “hidden” combustibles like rubber or plastic lined equipment, is important to understanding these hazards. Automatic fire suppression systems coupled with effective emergency response have been effective in limiting fire damage in processing facilities. Most fires involving mobile or self-propelled mining equipment — whether underground or surface— occur on or near engine exhaust systems, high-speed drive lines, malfunctioning high-pressure–high-temperature hydraulic systems, or faulty electrical components. Total elimination of fire hazards on equipment is impossible since sources of ignition and fuel for fires are inherent in the basic equipment design. The fire problem is further complicated by the collection of environmental debris. Therefore, efforts to reduce fire losses on mobile equipment must be aimed at fire prevention and fire suppression. To improve fire protection and prevention on mining equipment, some manufacturers of mining equipment have placed emphasis on the reduction of the fire potential of specific items in the original design of their equipment. Such items include turbochargers, exhaust manifolds and exhaust pipe shielding and insulation, location of combustible and flammable liquid reservoirs, and hydraulic and fuel line routing. Most mining equipment is required to have at least one hand-portable extinguisher mounted in a readily accessible location. Extinguishers are most effective where used by trained operators. However, considering the size and configuration of machines found at a mine, fires can be difficult or impossible to fight with a hand-held extinguisher. For this reason, fire suppression systems have been developed to aid in suppressing those fires that are hard to access and thereby to reduce “off-road” equipment fire losses. The key to operator protection is early detection of fires to provide a warning to the operator, fuel shutoff to minimize fuel for the fire, and fire suppression during its earliest stages. Specialized systems to perform these functions can be required to protect the operator and the machines. To be totally effective, however, system operation must be fully understood by owners and operators, and provisions must be made for periodic inspection and maintenance. Fire suppression systems, including hand-portable extinguishers, offer the mining industry a cost-effective tool by which personnel and investments in mining equipment can be protected. It could be necessary for those charged with purchasing, testing, approving, and maintaining fire protection equipment for the mining industry to consult an experienced fire protection specialist. 1.1.1 This standard covers minimum requirements for safeguarding life and property against fire and related hazards associated with metal and nonmetal underground and surface mining and metal mineral processing plants. 1.1.2 As applies to underground mining, this standard shall cover only the following: (1) Diesel-powered equipment (2) Storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids 1.1.3 As applies to underground mining, this standard shall not cover flammable and combustible liquids produced in underground mines, such as shale oil mines. 1.1.4 As applies to surface mining, this standard shall cover only the following: (1) Mobile equipment in use without its own motive power train and normally moved by self-propelled equipment (2) Self-propelled equipment that contains a motive power train as an integral part of the unit and is not rail-mounted 1.1.5 This standard shall not cover buildings or employee housing and support facilities for a mining operation, or preparation or use of explosives. 1.1.6* As applies to metal mineral processing, this standard shall cover fire and related hazards associated with metal mineral processing plants—whether underground or on the surface — including but not limited to conveying, crushing, fine milling, beneficiation, flotation, hydro-metallurgical solvent extraction, drying, filtering, ore and concentrate storage, and support facilities for the mineral processing activity. A.1.1.6 A typical metal mineral processing plant — also called a concentrating or dressing mill — is physically separated from the mining operation, although it can be connected by conveyor systems. Typical metals produced using concentrator plants are gold, silver, platinum, nickel, zinc, lead, molybdenum, and copper. Essentially any metal can be concentrated in this manner. Some concentrating mills are located on floating dredges, such as those used in titanium mining. The general purpose of the processing plant is to receive crushed ore, further reduce it in size by additional crushing, milling, and screening, and separate waste materials (gangue) from desirable metal mineral values. Most metal mineral mills are similar in that they have large semi-autogenous, ball, or roll mills for fine grinding the ore into a pulp or slurry. Once ground, the slurry is processed by flotation or beneficiation using reagents. After flotation, the concentrate— which can be in the 20 percent to 30 percent metals value range — is filtered or thermally dried and stored. Some metals, like molybdenum, feature combustible thermal oils in the drying process. Concentrate is sent to metallurgical refineries to recover the final pure product. The refinery might be adjacent to the mill but is usually separate. By-products produced in a typical metal concentrator mill include tailings, which consist of waste gangue and entrained water and process chemicals. This waste is sent to a tailings disposal facility. 1.1.7* As applies to surface metal mineral processing plants, this standard shall not cover the following: (1) Solvent extraction plants (2) Pressure-leaching processes (3) Alumina refineries (4) Nonmetal mineral processing plants (5) Metal smelters including roasting, sintering, and calcining (6) Metal refineries such as electrowinning or electro-refining processes (7) Gas, liquid, or solid waste handling or storage systems A.1.1.7 There are number of processes associated with concentration or refining of metal ores that are not applicable to this standard but deserve mention due to their hazards and integration with the concentration process. These include solvent extraction–electrowinning (SX–EW); pressure leaching processes (using high-pressure autoclave reactors); alumina refineries; metal smelters, including flash furnaces; roasting, sintering, calcining, and electro-refining processes; and gas, liquid, or solid waste handling systems. There are also nonmetal mineral processing plants such as those used for recovering phosphates, nitrates, potash, and soda ash. All of these processes are chemical in nature, and all have serious fire and explosion hazards. Of particular mention and importance from a potential fire hazard standpoint are solvent extraction (SX) plants, which are covered in Section 13.18 (for new and existing facilities) An SX plant is a separations process using combustible solvents like kerosene or alcohol for separating valuable metal minerals. An SX process facility often features thousands of gallons of solvent in plastic tanks using plastic piping and can be located outdoors or inside buildings. SX plants are common at copper mines where the oxide content of the ore body allows acid leaching in heaps. They are also common for uranium, nickel, and cobalt. While kerosene is usually a Class II combustible liquid and in a cold state is relatively difficult to ignite, once ignited it burns similar to other lower flash point hydrocarbons. At high elevations, the flash point can render the material a Class I flammable liquid. In very hot climates, the material can be above its flash point and the potential for heating is increased when the solution is carried in black plastic piping subject to solar heating. Protection of SX plants needs to consider response time of fire fighters and types of fire fighting appliances and suppression agents. Because of the large quantities of combustible liquids and use of plastic piping and process systems — which can fail prematurely due to fire impingement and rapidly release additional combustible liquids — a well-developed and large area fire could occur in minutes, and responding fire fighters could be faced with protecting exposures rather than suppression of the incipient event. For this reason the use of fast-acting automatic detection and suppression systems is advised. Foam-water systems have proven effective in suppressing combustible liquid fires. If used, consideration needs to be given to providing protection over and under mixer-settlers and tanks, in tunnels with plastic piping, under pipe racks, over pumps, and inside mixer-settlers. Provision of drainage, confinement, control of static electricity by bonding and grounding, and selection of stout piping systems, such as stainless steel or structural fiberglass reinforced plastic instead of less robust polyethylene, is advised. A mineral SX plant should not be confused with an agricultural SX plant that uses low flash point flammable solvents, like hexane, for recovering oils from soybeans, canola, and corn, and that has a higher hazard. NFPA 36, Standard for Solvent Extraction Plants, applies to protection of agricultural solvent extraction plants but does not apply to protection of mineral solvent extraction plants. There currently are no NFPA standards on mineral SX plants. 1.1.8 Nothing in this standard is intended to prohibit the use of new methods or devices, provided sufficient technical data are submitted to the authority having jurisdiction to demonstrate that the new method or device is equivalent in quality, effectiveness, durability, and safety to that specified by this standard.

This standard presents minimum requirements for safeguarding life and property against fire and related hazards associated with diesel-powered equipment and the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids at metal and nonmetal underground and surface mining and metal mineral processing plants.

Official document scope
What does NFPA 122 address?

Coverage includes fire risk assessment and reduction, fire detection and suppression equipment, fire protection for diesel-powered equipment in underground mines, transfer and storage of flammable or combustible liquids in underground mines, fire protection of surface mining equipment and surface metal mineral processing plants.

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