Government agencies and the mining industry are working together to provide research on reducing dust from haul roads.
The NSW coal industry is investigating new techniques to minimise dust from roadways at open cut mines,with the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) investing nearly a quarter of a million dollars over the next two years to determine the effectiveness and feasibility of new synthetic dust suppressants.
NSW Minerals Council CEO Nikki Williams said the research is another way the industry is reducing and minimising impacts on the environments and communities.
“We know that haul roads at coal mines are a source of dust and that’s why we have measures in place to minimise those emissions,” Williams said.
“Truck movements and material handling are minimised, water trucks and sprays are used on roadways and mines change their operations in response to real time monitoring of air quality and weather conditions.
“This research, the first of its type in Australia, will test a range of suppressants in a series of different environmental, climatic and surface conditions. We hope the results will lead to new ways of managing dust and a more efficient use of water at mines sites.”
Williams said the industry has recently been informed of new benchmarks in international best practise of dust management in coal mines through a study commissioned by the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.
The study identified unpaved roadways as the area where the greatest reduction in dust emissions can be achieved.
"This shows that the industry has been on the right track with this research and is working toward improvements that have now also been identified by regulators,” Williams said.
“We are considering the other findings of the draft report, which recognised a number of best practice measures already being implemented such as the use of managing blasting in accordance with wind and other weather conditions."
This research complements the other initiatives underway to improve practices by individual mines and the real-time data now being published online from the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network.
“There are concerns in the community about the impacts of coal mining and we take them very seriously. We’re thinking about things differently and we’re doing things differently to help address these concerns,” she added.
This development comes after comments late last year by Williams, who said the health and safety of miners in New South Wales continues to be the top priority.
A new service provider to test the quality of air breathed by underground miners was announced, with the promise that having accredited companies monitoring dust in underground mines would not diminish safety standards.
“The health and safety standards for mining in NSW are some of the toughest in the world and we have a regulator that ensures those standards are maintained and enforced,” Williams said.
“Industry, unions and regulators have worked tirelessly over recent many years to first control and now eradicate black lung disease in NSW. We now have world-leading standards and procedures for managing dust in underground coal mines.”
The Australian record of black lung cases has significantly improved over the last decade, as opposed to nations such as the US where cases have actually risen in recent years.