Fire safety heating up at Glencore Mt Isa

Glencore's Mt Isa underground copper mine. Image: Glencore.

Glencore has taken steps to improve fire safety at its Mt Isa copper operations in Queensland, updating its transformer fluid to a synthetic option.

As Australia’s deepest underground copper mine at 1900 metres, and with more than 3000 workers, safety at Mt Isa is paramount.

Glencore identified the mine’s below ground level mineral oil filled transformers as a potential fire risk and flagged them for further investigation.

As part of its commitment to safety, Glencore invited ester transformer fluid company MIDEL on-site, to explore the options to reduce the fire risk posed by the existing transformers.

After researching MIDEL’s options, Glencore opted to retro fill the first transformer using MIDEL’s 7131 biodegradable, synthetic transformer fluid.

The MIDEL 7131 has a high fire point of 316 degrees Celsius, offering excellent safety benefits for sites with enclosed spaces such as Mt Isa, where smoke can be even more deadly than the fire itself.

By retro filling with a synthetic transformer fluid, fire risk by transformer is almost completely eliminated.

Glencore electrical superintendent Peter Ferguson said the price was worth it when thinking of his workers’ improved safety prospects.

“Despite MIDEL being more expensive than other transformer fluids, in the overall scheme of things, the difference was negligible particularly for such a vast improvement in fire safety,” Ferguson said.

“If we ever had to physically move the transformer it would be costly and disruptive, so retrofilling with an oxygen-stable fluid gave us peace of mind.”