Air quality & dust
Just like agriculture, construction and other industrial activities, dust is a side-effect of what we do. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it. We don’t like dust any more than the next person, and it can impact communities near our mines, so we’re always working to keep dust emissions to a minimum.
Dust at mine sites comes from activities like moving rock and soil, bulldozing, blasting, and vehicles travelling on dirt roads. Most dust particles from mining are large dust particles, also called coarse particles or Particulate Matter (PM10). These particles are generated when soil is disturbed or when wind blows over bare ground and stockpiles. These coarse particles are mostly associated with nuisance issues (also called amenity impacts), like seeing dust in the air, on washing hung outside or on a house roof.
Only five percent of dust from mine sites is fine particles (PM2.5), which can be of greater health concern (Source: NSW Health). Fine particles mostly come from vehicle exhausts and combustion processes, just like in urban areas.
Dust emissions are managed through a combination of mine planning, minimising disturbed areas, undertaking continuous rehabilitation, limiting road haul distances and traffic, using enclosed conveyors, using water sprays on stockpiles and dust watering carts on unpaved roads. We are constantly innovating, testing and implementing new technologies to reduce dust, like using aerial seeding to bind soil on overburden stockpiles.
Dust levels at mine sites are monitored and kept to below standards set under the National Environment Protection Measure. These standards are based on independent national and international studies. Our on-site monitoring programs don’t just measure compliance with air quality standards and conditions, but also help find ways to improve dust management.
We have also invested millions of dollars to the installation and operation of the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network, which has fourteen monitoring sites across the Upper Hunter. The monitoring sites are operated independently by the NSW Environment Protection Authority, and real-time data is available to the public at environment.nsw.gov.au.