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Mining Project: Controlling Respirable Dust in Coal Mining Operations

Principal Investigator
  • James Rider, NIOSH OMSHR, 412-386-4727
Start Date10/1/2014

To identify and develop improved respirable dust controls for coal mines and facilitate their implementation to reduce the dust exposures of mine workers.

Topic Areas

Research Summary

This project has six research aims, as follows:

  1. Investigate the use of longwall shearer-mounted water-powered dust collectors to reduce dust exposures.
  2. Develop underside canopy spray systems to reduce dust generated by spalling along the longwall face.
  3. Develop foam applications to the longwall roof to mitigate dusts associated with shield advance.
  4. Investigate operating parameters to reduce shuttle car operator dust exposures in blowing face ventilation.
  5. Evaluate a standalone dry scrubber to reduce dust exposures on continuous mining sections.
  6. Conduct field evaluations on the effects of dust collector-to-bailing airflow ratios and shroud-to-ground gaps on dust levels around surface highwall drills.

Health surveillance data indicate that overexposure to respirable dust in the nation’s coal mines continues to lead to the development of lung disease. The disease is present in the current workforce, with results from the most recent NIOSH Coal Worker’s X-ray Surveillance Program (CWXSP) indicating that eight percent of miners with at least 25 years’ experience show evidence of pneumoconiosis.

To address this problem, this project develops control technologies that will reduce respirable dust exposures and preserve the health of mine workers in all coal mining settings—i.e., longwall, continuous, and surface mining. This project specifically targets those coal mining occupations where MSHA compliance data indicate the highest exposures to respirable dust.

The project research will develop, implement, and evaluate control interventions intended to minimize respirable dust generation and improve the capture and control of airborne dusts. In undertaking this research, OMSHR will perform the following tasks: (1) in-house design and fabrication of dust control systems; (2) rigorous testing in OMSHR’s one-of-a-kind, full-scale simulated mining galleries over a range of representative operational parameters; (3) field evaluations at producing coal mines to test and validate promising technologies.

Industry is likely to adopt validated interventions in order to comply with more stringent respirable dust standards contained in MSHA’s new dust rule for coal mines. Assuming industry adoption, reduced respirable dust levels in the workplace will correspondingly decrease the incidence and prevalence of respiratory illnesses in coal miners.