Managing Air Quality
Air quality and dust
Commonly called dust, scientists and regulators refer to the term “Particulate Matter” (PM) to describe the range of particles that exist in the air that we breathe.
Particulate matter exists naturally in the atmosphere, for example as sea-salt spray and pollens. It also includes particulates from human activities such as vehicle exhausts, industrial processes, power stations, mining, farming and domestic wood heaters, as well as smoke from bushfires.
Large particles can cause amenity issues, such as the visibility of dust in the air, as well as settling on washing hung outside, house roofs, outdoor furniture and vehicles.
Exposure to particulate matter can also be associated with health impacts. The likely risk of these impacts depends on a range of factors including age and the general health of the person.
You can read more about the effects of mine dust in the NSW health fact sheet: “Mine dust and you”, which you can download from the NSW government health department website at www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment under the factsheet quick link.
Management of air quality
MTW’s Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) outlines how we manage and reduce air quality impacts to ensure that levels do not exceed the specified criteria.
We try to reduce dust created by our operations in the following ways:
- Using water trucks to dampen haul routes
- Automatic activation of sprays at our hoppers when haul trucks dump their loads
- Minimising tip heights
- Restricting the removal of topsoil to ensure that it contains enough moisture
- Enclosing coal processing areas
- Modifying or shutting down mine operations during extreme weather, including windy and dry conditions
- Covering coal conveyors and keeping stockpiles damp
- Stabilising exposed areas through various techniques including aerial seeding
- Rehabilitating mined land as soon as possible to reduce exposed areas
- Restricting blasting during adverse weather conditions
- Implementing overburden dumping restrictions in dust sensitive areas
- Educating employees about minimising the generation of dust when operating heavy machinery
Community Response Officers
Community Response Officers (CROs) routinely undertake visual inspections of MTW’s operations, from inside and outside the mine’s boundary. They also validate real-time air quality alarms and advise the the mine shift coordinator of any problem dust sources.
Our CROs provide regular feedback to the mine shift coordinator (OCE) to help them to make changes to mining operations if dust levels are increasing, and to let them know whether the changes are working to reduce dust levels in real time.
CROs also speak with community members who voice concern regarding air quality. They receive and respond to complaints and inform community members of current conditions, and (if applicable), any changes which have been introduced to help control emissions.
MTW operates a network of real-time and static monitoring devices to measure compliance with air quality conditions. Real-time monitoring data is reviewed and reported daily through this website, while static monitoring data and more detailed trend information is made available on a monthly basis in the document library of this website.
Meteorological data is collected on a continuous basis via the Charlton Ridge meteorological station. The meteorological station provides real-time data on key weather parameters such as wind speed and direction, allowing the operation to make informed decisions on blasting and dumping operations each day.
In 2010, the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network (UHAQMN) was established to provide reliable, regional air quality monitoring data. Monitoring stations are located throughout the Upper Hunter, including Singleton and Muswellbrook. All of the monitoring sites measure dust particles, such as PM10, wind speed and wind direction. Data from the UHAQMN can be viewed at www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/upperhunter.htm
Where can I find out more information?
The MTW Annual Environmental Review provides a summary of compliance monitoring data for the previous year. The MTW Air Quality Management Plan describes the measures employed to minimise air quality emissions each day.
All documents are available in our document library.
Total Suspended Particulate Matter (TSP) refers to the total of all particles suspended in the air. Even the largest of these particles is barely half the width of a human hair.
A subset of TSP, describing those particles with an equivalent spherical disameter of 10um or less (smaller than 1/7th of a hair width). Particles in the size range 2.5um to 10um in diameter are reffered to as coarse particles (PM2.5-PM10)
Sources of particulate matter
Particulate matter emissions from mining can result from a range of processes. Wind movement over exposed ground (waste dumps) and vehicles travelling on haul roads are the most significant dust sources, followed by other processes such as the movement of material, blasting, and stockpiling of coal.
Regulating air quality
The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) is the principal piece of legislation regulating pollution (including air pollution) emissions in NSW. Compliance is assessed against conditions in a mines Environmental Protection Licence (EPL) and Development Consent both of which are available in the sites Document Library.
Dust generated by mine sites is also regulated against standards adopted by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). These standards are set nationally under the National
Environment Protection Measure – Air. To find out more about these standards visit www.environment.gov.au
Coal mines are required to monitor ambient air quality as a condition of their development consents and/or environment protection licenses issued by the EPA. These conditions require mining operations to manage, monitor and report on concentrations of air pollutants in and around their mines.