Mining Publication: Reducing Worker Exposure To Dust Generated During Longwall Mining
Average production from longwall mining operations in the United States has risen from approximately 800 tons per shift in 1980 to over 4,600 metric tons per shift in 1999. Such a large increase in production has the potential to generate significantly more dust. Previous NIOSH research has shown that, on average, respirable dust levels generated by the shearer accounts for 50% of the airborne dust generated during longwall mining. Ventilating air and water are primary controls being used in an effort to reduce longwall dust levels. Longwall operators are applying more air and water than ever before and have expressed concern over reaching maximum practical limits for these controls. Full-scale laboratory tests are being conducted to evaluate the impact on shearer-generated dust levels for changes in face air velocity, water quantity at the shearer, water spray pressure, spray system design, mining height and cutting direction. Results of this research should identify the most appropriate control levels for various operating conditions. In addition, general recommended dust control practices for longwall mining will be discussed.