Government not developing dust monitors
KEY Black Lung solution a problem to be solved by the private sector
Wednesday 30 November 2016
The in-house development of real-time, coal dust monitoring systems in mining is not on the agenda for the Queensland Government.
In a short statement to Shift Miner a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) said while they’re looking at existing technology, they want the private sector to take up the challenge.
“Real-time dust monitoring devices have the potential to provide immediate feedback about how dust levels change over time and in response to mining operations,” they said
“However, there are currently no real-time dust monitors certified for use in Queensland underground coal mines.
“As part of its ongoing mine safety and health research work, the Queensland Government’s Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station (Simtars) is evaluating some models of real-time dust monitoring devices.
“The Department of Natural Resources and Mines is encouraging device manufacturers to develop intrinsically safe units that can be certified to meet Queensland's stringent safety standards.”
The statement comes a fortnight after the CFMEU’s Greg Dalliston told Shift Miner the lack of investment into real-time coal dust monitors suited to Australian mining conditions continues to make a mockery of attempts to deal with Black Lung.
Mr Dalliston said while the effort going into improving testing for the disease is important, he says it doesn't solve the root problem, which is miners working in dusty environments.
Under the current regime in Queensland, mine operators must ensure workers do not breathe an atmosphere containing respirable dust exceeding concentrations of 3 milligrammes per cubic metre of air during an 8-hour shift.
Leaving that controversial threshold level aside, he says there's a lot of problems with the current sampling technology.
“The biggest problem is that it can take between 1 and two weeks for the results of a dust sample to come back,” he said.
“Meanwhile, miners are expected to continue working.
“We have been criticised for not shutting down dusty work sites in the past, but the problem we have is that we have no technology that can give us accurate real-time average dust readings.
“I can go in and take an instantaneous dust or gas reading, but the legislation works on a time-weighted average, which means even when we know it's a dusty environment, we can’t prove it.”
According to the CFMEU, all US coal miners will soon be equipped with individual monitors on their cap lamps that can calculate real-time average coal dust levels.