New products to banish coal dust

TWO Novocastrian companies have developed two biodegradable liquid products they say have the power to slash the region's coal-dust pollution and safeguard community health.

One of the concentrates is designed to suppress dust levels during underground and open-cut mining; the other is designed to minimise airborne dust from static coal in stockpiles or during transportation.

Hammersley Australia and Howard Mining Systems said these could revolutionise mining-industry best practice amid growing community concern about dust pollution.

"What people are complaining about - and it's not just Stockton and Mayfield but it's The Hill and Merewether - are very real problems, and we hope coal-associated industries will look to trial our products in the near future," said Hammersley joint managing director Brian J McLean, whose company is headquartered just metres from the Kooragang coal stock piles.

After two years perfecting the two liquid agents, the companies were poised to approach major mining companies to test market demand.

The first concentrate, an instantaneous wetting agent for use in both underground and open-cut mining, would mix with water and be sprayed into coal machinery to limit dust.

The second, a moisture-attracting coating agent, would be sprayed on coal in stockpiles and in wagons to suppress airborne pollution.

The companies said the fully biodegradable products, which "are no more harmful to humans than shampoo", would benefit industry and the community.

"Mining companies can halve their water use and improve health-and-safety conditions for workers, while the community benefits overall," said Mr McLean.

Centennial Coal's general manager of external affairs, Katie Brassil, said the company was happy to look at any potential solutions that could deliver better outcomes "for our operations and the community".

"The mining industry is well known for fostering innovation and embracing solutions that deliver improved environmental outcomes," she said.

A Port Waratah Coal Services spokesman said the company was consistently looking to improve its operational performance through the use of new ideas and products.

"A good example of this is our award-winning Intelligent Dust Monitoring System, which uses cutting-edge technology to predict environmental conditions which may lead to dust emissions and proactively manage this risk," he said.

A NSW Minerals Council spokesperson said a number of projects were under way that would better manage dust from mines, including technology for best dust-suppressant use on haul roads.

"We support in principle any products that assist our suppliers and companies to efficiently and effectively minimise their impact on the environment and the community," he said.

An XStrata Coal spokesperson said the company was constantly working to improve its environmental performance, including reviews on effective dust management.

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