Nikky Labranche from the University of Queensland Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) is completing exciting research that will help the coal mining industry understand particle size, shape and mineralogical classes of dust that workers are being exposed to. This research will help to control and prevent lower lung disease.
The research has involved collecting respirable dust samples from a number of mines and analyzing them using a Mineral Liberation Analyser (MLA), which is a scanning electron microscope (SEM) that uses a combination of the backscattered electron (BSE) image and characteristic X-rays for mineral identification. This research identified 25 different minerals present in the coal samples with varying particle size distributions for the overall samples and the individual mineralogies.
The mineral class, size, and shape of the particle present in the environment may correlate to varying levels of health hazards from the dust in the ambient air of the mine. Mine dust lung disease rates have been found to vary by mine and region. The logical next step in establishing that correlation lies in the characterization of the dust.
Where there are mines with operators in cabs (e.g. drilling, pre-strip, excavation, loading, hauling) there is potential, if not controlled, for operators to be exposed to these dusts which cause lower lung disease. ISO 23875 is one practical, effective way operators in cabs can be protected throughout their careers from dust exposure.