An economic perspective of dust suppression technology

Global Road Technology has produced what it calls the most cost-efficient dust suppression product for mine haul roads. Safe to Work takes a look at the technology – the GRT: Haul-Loc.

Australia is becoming well known for its increasingly stringent regulations over workplace exposure to dust. 

As a country with an economy that relies heavily on the mining and resources industry, workers who depend on the sector for their livelihood need to be shielded from the irreversible implications of dust exposure.

Coal dust or silica aren’t the only respirable dangers that pose risks to the health of workers – other non-toxic dusts must also be considered.

Unlike ingesting food into the digestive system, there is physically no way out for respirable dust that has entered human lungs.

Dust also lowers visibility on mine site haul roads and creates the potential for vehicle collisions or rollovers.

A lack of dust control also causes premature wear and tear on fixed and mobile plants, increasing the risk of safety incidents.

When put into perspective, the economic impact on operations and workforce health and safety is significant.

“If you’re suspending a mine operation for a day due to an incident, that will pay for just any dust suppression system for a year due to the sheer scale of volume that gets lost in production,” Global Road Technology (GRT) general manager Daniel Grundy tells Safe to Work.

Dust suppression is a commercial challenge at any mine site, competing with the many economic battles that mining companies face, such as the coronavirus pandemic and low commodity prices.

GRT refuses to be a silver bullet company by claiming the universality of a single product over different applications. Instead, the company takes a holistic approach to dust suppression on mine sites.

The GRT: Activate technology, for example, is a dust control solution for underground mining and ore processing. The GRT: Wet-Loc product is applicable to logistics areas and other places with heavy traffic, with its effect lasting for up to 12 months.

“We’ve seen mines that were flooded and needed to get rid of water. We’ve seen others that needed to save massively on water,” Grundy says.

“So, we tailor our solutions to the mine infrastructure and what the mine site truly needs. It comes down to understanding the operation.

“That’s how we prove our industry experience. Our team is built by civil and geotechnical engineers that have worked in the mining industry, come out with knowledge of the field and use that to develop solutions to the problems we knew we had.”

GRT has ultimately become the company that produced the most cost-effective product to manage dust suppression in the market – the GRT: Haul-Loc.

 

The highly concentrated additive reduces water usage associated with dust control, while providing greater dust suppression.

GRT has benchmarked the Haul-Loc against all other available products in the market, including its own.

“Its effectiveness comes down to how well it works and how low the on the ground price is,” Grundy, a chartered engineer, who has spent his career in civil construction and the dust and erosion control industry, says.

“We just had some interesting discussions with some of the mine sites in Australia and their feedback was that they were finally getting the dust suppression results they were after.

“Mine haul roads chop and change a fair bit. They’re very, very heavily trafficked. So operators can invest in road stabilisation to the point that they over-invest in it.

“What you need is something safe that stops the dust and facilitates getting your ore out of the ground to the processing area. This is where the Haul-Loc comes in.”

Unlike salt or bitumen-based technologies that introduce environmental or other health and safety hazards, or surfactants that contribute to road damage when the rain falls, the GRT: Haul-Loc doesn’t introduce other hazards as it delivers dust control on site.

It allows mine operators to drive big cost-efficiency gains across mine operations, including water, truck usage, manpower and fuel.

“We’re finding that mine companies realise efficiency gains of several hundred per cent, so using the product saves them money,” Grundy says.

“Running water trucks, and putting a driver in a truck, every single day of the year is worth millions of dollars in investment. A standard water truck would burn 75 litres of diesel in an hour. These are massive capital and operational outlays.

“Now they don’t need to stretch out the use of their water truck like there is too much bread without enough butter – areas of a mine site that cannot be covered with available resources. Now they’ve got dust suppression coverage where they need it.”

The Haul-Loc technology is being used across mining and quarrying operations and civil projects in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the Middle East.

It also boasts ease of use especially when paired with GRT’s automated dosing units.

These are standalone, solar-powered units that inject the correct dose of dust suppression products into water trucks, no matter the size of the trucks. The dosing rate is calibrated to the flow of water at the standpipe.

GRT is proudly an Australian-owned company and like all of GRT’s mining products, the dosing units were developed by the company’s in-house research and development team, in partnership with other Australian companies.

“The automated dosing units provide the best and safest way to use a dust suppression product, particularly for large mining operations,” Grundy says.

“The units work all year round in the harshest mining conditions.”

While dust suppression may have been considered an extra overhead cost years ago, mining companies now understand the risks of dust exposure and recognise it as a significant hazard to workers.

“They say that mining and construction are just dusty industries, but they certainly don’t have to be,” Grundy concludes.

This article also appears in the Sep-Oct issue of Safe to Work.