Mine forced to stop operations to cut dust

A Hunter Valley mine says it has been forced to halt operations on a daily basis to avoid producing excess dust.

Mount Arthur Coal Mines says it is serous about addressing community concerns surrounding the air quality in the Upper Hunter.

Following a spate of unprecedented health alerts, the mine is holding a Community Think Tank in Mussellbrook tonight which will focus on the impacts of coal mining.

BHP Billiton's Peter Sharpe says controlling dust emissions has become increasingly difficult.

"Certainly over the last few months there've been very extreme conditions – dry and high winds," he said.
"We take our responsibility very seriously.

"I can't recall over the last few months that we've had a shift where we actually haven't had to stop some of our equipment because we were starting to get up into the upper limits of our acceptable dust generations."

Overnight four health alerts were issued for the Upper Hunter, including two in Muswellbrook, the ABC reported.

Sharpe says wind has replaced rain as the major barrier to maintaining consistent operations.

"Historically in the mining industry we've always looked at wet weather or rain as being the major weather event that stops or interrupted production," he said.

"However, over the last two months especially, we've seen major delays because we just have to stop.

As Australian Mining reported yesterday The Hunter Valley Protection Alliance want dust-level alerts to be issued in the same way as nuclear radiation alerts.

The group believes people living in close proximity to open-cut mines should have the same protection as those living near nuclear sites, such as the Lucas Heights reactor.

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