Australian Mining Prospect Award Winners: Excellence in Environmental Management – NCIG and DuPont

For the implementation of an integrated dust management system at the Port of Newcastle, the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group and DuPont have taken out this year’s Excellence in Environmental Management award.

In 2004, six mining companies joined to form NCIG with the objective being to increase port capacity.

The NCIG coal terminal is located on Kooragang Island in the Port of Newcastle, the world’s leading exporter of coal.

NCIG exports mainly thermal coal from the Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Gloucester, Gunnedah and Wester Coalfields to destinations around the world.

With the NCIG terminal in close proximity to a number of industrial and residential suburbs, the group says they recognised the importance of dust management from the onset – noting that it was critical to ensure a social licence to operate remained intact.

With NCIG being a purposely designed and built coal shipping terminal, most of the capabilities for good dust management were already taken into consideration and included in the plant such as: enclosed conveyors and transfers; belt cleaning systems; water sprays throughout the site; moisture analysers; weather stations, and real time dust monitors.

However NCIG say they recognised the importance of all these systems working in tangent, and decided to implement an automated smart system that controlled all the capabilities in a holistic manner.

The aim was to eliminate technologies operating in silos and take away the subjective judgement of operators.

DuPont were engaged by NCIG as export consultants to assist with the development and implementation of industry leading dust management practices, technologies, and systems at the newest terminal in operation at the Port of Newcastle.

The major project examined all the major operations on site and the key factors that influence dust generation and emission and developed specific strategies and systems to address the issues in an integrated and holistic approach.

For coal terminals some of the main factors of dust generation are materials handling, weather, and moisture balance and control.

The project started in late 2011 and reviewed all dust related equipment, dust mitigation procedures, and air quality systems including coal receival, transfer points, conveyors, stockyard, stacking, reclaiming, and ship loading.

The end result is a fully automated dust management system that is reactive, predictive and,  proactive. 

The Integrated Dust Management System (IDMS) takes into account fixed variables such as the location of the site in relation to surrounding suburbs and coal properties and also changing variables such as weather conditions; real-time dust levels; locations of coal in the yard; changing moisture level in the coal stockpiles due to weather and evaporation; and the potential risk to neighbouring communities as a result.

Based on the level of risk identifies, the IDMS is able to respond reactively by sending out alarms and initiates critical dust mitigation action such as activation of dust suppression sprays for different parts of the site.

The system is also predictive and able to determine the dust risks faced by the site in advance, alerting personal so dust mitigation actions can be applied proactively.

Before the project was initiated and under the old dust management system there were occasions where the adverse weather conditions such as ambient temperatures above 30 degrees celsius, relative humidity below 20 per cent and wind speeds above 12m/s generated dust emission levels that caused complaints from the community.

However since the implementation the company says similar days of adverse weather has shown that while there was a small increase in the airborne dust levels, the difference was less than a tenth of what it had been.

The judges stated that the “forward thinking” dust management system deployed by NCIG and DuPont should be implemented at other ports.

Nathan Juchau, Health, Safety, Environment and Community Manager at NCIG said the award would mean a lot to his team who had worked hard to implement the initiative.

“It’s a great recognition of the effort that gone into the work and it will be nice to get back on site and let the people who have been involved with it know that it has all paid off,” Jachau said.

Juchau said NCIG was continually working towards ensuring dust management at the site was handled above and beyond best practice.

 “There is a very high awareness now about air quality and what it means to the community and what potential impact NCIG could have on that and the project we implemented in conjunction with DuPont have certainly given people confidence that it’s been taken care of,” he said.

“We’re always striving to improve our performance in this area.”

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