Industry initiatives to improve coal train dust management

While the evidence indicates coal train dust emissions don’t have a significant impact on air quality, the industry has implemented several initiatives to improve coal train dust management.

As part of the Hunter Valley coal industry’s ongoing efforts to improve its environmental performance, operators throughout the coal chain have worked together to better understand the impact of coal trains on air quality and review coal train dust management practices.

The industry’s operational practices to minimise potential coal dust emissions from trains include:

  • Train loading facilities have reviewed their loading practices to minimise the occurrence of overfilling and spillage of coal during train loading, which can contribute to dust emissions. Train loading practices are being verified by the coal export terminals as each train arrives for unloading.

  • Train loading facilities profile the top of loaded coal to achieve an even, consistent shape, which helps to minimise wind erosion.

  • Regular scheduled wagon door maintenance is conducted, which includes testing wagon door gaps against design specifications. Wagon doors are checked to ensure they lock closed after unloading at the coal export terminals.

  • The coal export terminals have procedures in place to stop the build up of large volumes of coal underneath trains during the unloading process, which helps minimise the amount of coal that is caught on the lower parts of the wagons that can drop off during transport.

  • The coal export terminals have water sprays in the unloading bins to minimise dust generation during the unloading process.

The industry has several investigations underway that will provide further information about the nature of potential coal dust emissions from trains:

  • Investigations into coal deposition in the rail corridor, which is visible on some localised areas of the tracks that carry unloaded coal wagons away from the coal export terminals in Newcastle.

  • Investigations into the potential emissions of residual coal left in wagons after unloading through the top of the wagons during their journey from the coal export terminals back to mines.

  • Investigations into a monitoring device that can detect dust emissions from the coal surface of loaded wagons, which could provide ongoing verification that existing management controls are sufficient.


The industry will monitor the outcomes of these studies as well as the outcomes from the review of coal train dust issues that is being conducted by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.


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