Real-time dust monitoring on haul roads

Acoem Ecotech has launched an environmental monitoring system that pinpoints dust hotspots on haul roads. It is the latest technology to bolster the mining industry’s dust suppression system. 

The battle to control worker exposure to dust is impacted by the dynamic nature of dust that exists in mine transport routes and the variable weather conditions. 

Dust’s effect on health, when inhaled, is known. What is less known is the actual conditions or levels of dust along a specific location such as haul roads. 

Experts from environmental monitoring solutions provider Acoem Ecotech say that high levels of dust are present in at least two surface mining activities: blasting and material loading.

Given the stretch of processes involved in material loading, haul road traffic is identified as a major generator of dust. 

“There are many dust producing activities involved in the loading, haulage and unloading of haul trucks, particularly around the crushers. We know for certain that haul trucks make a significant contribution of dust on mine sites,” Acoem Ecotech business manager – Australia and New Zealand, Mark Brooks, tells Safe to Work.

“It’s why we’ve combined multiple sensors and components in a system to capture dust data in all those activities.”

Acoem Ecotech has developed a monitoring system called the DustRover to measure dust levels on haul trucks and other mobile vehicles, such as the dust sweeper. 

It is installed on the truck to capture the levels of dust from particles as small as 0.3 micrometres as the truck moves along the haul roads.

All the while, it is feeding data on dust levels to the mine’s operations centre or a web-enabled device every second or every hour according to operator preferences. 

The web interface will show a haul truck or an entire fleet’s routes and their track conditions in respect of dust emission levels.

DustRover comprises a GPS, road surface temperature sensor, data logger, front and rear dust monitors and router.

“It shows a trail left behind by the truck in either green (for low dust levels), orange for (border line levels) or red (for potentially hazardous levels),” Brooks says.

“If it goes red, it will stay on the screen for 15 minutes to show and turn the operators’ attention to the area that requires immediate intervention.

“They can go through the statistics showing the actual dust measurements, the truck temperature and more.”

The DustRover is not just an intelligent device, but its reliability has been tested across Australia’s mine sites, including at a bauxite operation and several major iron ore sites in Western Australia. 

According to Acoem Ecotech engineering manager Western Australia, Peter Stidwell, the DustRover has been travelling throughout the bauxite mine, taking samples, recording data and processing them for display on the interface.

“Since last year, it’s been providing continuous data for our clients in a consistent and robust manner. It’s been very reliable,” Stidwell says. 

A major iron ore operator has installed DustRover on its haul trucks for over 12 months and has requested 10 additional systems for further installation. 

In this instance, the DustRover played a big part in the mining company’s bid to minimise the mine’s total dust levels that can potentially travel to nearby communities. 

It stands out in its ability to display the levels of dust right in the mine’s remote operations centre in real-time.

“Employees can see where the haul truck is at any point in time, the conditions of the truck and the dust being generated as it moves around the mine site, so they can take appropriate action, such as sending out water trucks or applying suppression mechanisms to wherever they are needed immediately,” Brooks says.

The DustRover comprises the entire solution that’s complete with a GPS, road surface temperature sensor, data logger, front and rear dust monitors and router.

While the dust monitors show real-time dust concentration relative to the vehicle’s position to the pit, the temperature sensor identifies the fluctuations in dust levels in wet and dry road conditions every few seconds.

Despite the comprehensive package, Stidwell elevated the DustRover offering by including an additional electronic device that can report the temperature of the road surface back to the dashboards, just like the DustRover shows the dust levels.

It is integrated in the DustRover to help minimise tyre wear and tear, as well as their costs.

Operators are free to reconfigure the system to their needs thanks to the flexibility of DustRover.

An ambient temperature or humidity sensor can be added, just as a water flow sensor can be integrated to the DustRover.  

“The DustRover is flexible in its design. If an operator wants to track and minimise the amount of water produced from the water carts, they can add a group pack of systems to do that,” Stidwell says.

“It’s not hard to complement the system with another sensor. It’s the display of all the data that’s most important to the mine.” 

This story also appears in the May issue of Safe To Work.

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