Dust monitoring in coalmines

Paul Boughton

Monitoring airborne dust in coalmines is vital. Kristine White looks at the new air sampling measures being put in place.

Years spent breathing in large amounts of coal dust in relatively enclosed spaces puts coal miners at risk of developing respiratory diseases. As a result there has been increased attention placed upon ensuring that better equipment and improved health and safety monitoring is in place.

Casella CEL (UK) is in collaboration with Environmental Scientifics Group (ESG) to supply seven coal mines throughout England and Wales with 70 Intrinsically Safe (IS) TUFF pumps that can be used to monitor coal miner’s exposure to dust.[Page Break]

Sampling pump

The TUFF pump comes 60 years after Casella first developed a sampling pump used by coal miners. Meeting all the certifications highlighted in The Coal Mines (Control of Inhalable Dust) Regulations 2007, the TUFF pump is the only product in the world to gain an M1 rating.

Stuart Hunneyball, Divisional Technical Director at ESG, explains: “We have worked with Casella for many years now, so when the coal mining industry had a specific requirement for a particular type of sampling pump, it made perfect sense to approach the experts in occupational health and environmental monitoring equipment.”

The TUFF Pump features intelligent battery monitoring and a fast charge control facility making it reliable and able to maintain an optimum battery life.  A gauge displays the remaining run time and an LED alarm signals any faults.[Page Break]

Methane ignition

Not only is coal dust able to cause respiratory problems but subsequent coal dust explosions are lethal and can be set up by methane ignition.

Traditionally the preventative measure used by many coal mines involves the application of dust barriers where the stone dust mixes with coal dust and mitigates or can prevent a subsequent coal dust explosion. However, this is not always 100 per cent effective and with coal dust explosions being the main cause of fatalities within underground coalmines, further measures need to be taken.

Research currently taking place by BMT WBM, an Australian subsidiary of UK headquartered BMT Group, and SkillPro Services has resulted in the development of an Active Barrier prototype that suppresses coal dust to avoid such explosions.[Page Break]

Water spraying techniques
Instantaneous automatic water spraying techniques are used to suppress the possibility of an explosion. The companies say that this system could play an integral role in enhancing the future safety of coal miners.

With this same purpose in mind, researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed a real-time dust explosibility measuring device that can provide instant feedback to miners as to the level of hazard of dust accumulations in the mine.

The Coal Dust Explosibility Meter (CDEM) can also help monitor the effectiveness of their rock dusting practices.

With the CDEM and the Active Barrier as two important product developments, miners, regulators and mine operators will soon have the information necessary to take immediate action to eliminate an explosion hazard, and the protection to reduce the number of dust explosions.

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