Queensland coal mines show significant reduction in dust levels

Significant reductions in respirable dust levels have been recorded in Queensland’s coal mining industry, the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME) reported.

The department’s latest dust monitoring results shows only 0.9 per cent of all dust samples in Queensland’s coal mines last year exceeded the legislated occupational exposure limit (OEL).

The figure is a significant improvement from its dust level in 2016, which was sitting at 3.9 per cent.

Commissioner for mine safety and health Kate du Preez said, “The average respirable coal dust and respirable crystalline silica concentrations were less than 50 per cent of the OEL, [which is] 3 mg/m3 for coal dust and 0.1 mg/m3 for silica dust.”

The coal mine safety regulation required all Queensland coal mines to report their respirable dust monitoring results to DNRME since January last year. This includes any single exceedance of the OEL.

The regulatory change was triggered by the reemergence of dust lung diseases in mine sites.

Du Preez claimed all 34,400 Queensland coal mine workers were working in safer conditions now.

Du Preez said, “While I am pleased with these results, I urge the industry to maintain its vigilance and awareness of the hazards posed by respirable dust and continue to seek ways to minimise dust levels and improve risk reduction strategies for workers.”

Meanwhile, in Western Australia, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) recently put forth dust management recommendations for Roy Hill’s iron ore project.

This followed the EPA’s inquiry on changing the operating conditions for Roy Hill’s operations in Port Hedland.

EPA chairman Tom Hatton said, “The management of dust emissions at Port Hedland is a significant environmental issue and it is important the appropriate regulatory process is in place to effectively manage and enforce the regulations.”

The report suggests Roy Hill’s Port Hedland operations be carried out using a contemporary Part V licence and not a condition in a ministerial statement. This is aimed to ensure that dust emissions are managed in a more transparent manner.

EPA’s full recommendation to Roy Hill is available here.

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