Amid growing community concerns over the potential health impacts dust generated by mining activities has, the environmental watchdog has launched the next stage of its dust management agenda.
The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) Dust Stop Program enforces new standards on dust control, aiming to achieve an 80 per cent dust reduction by August next year.
Now it its third stage of implementation, the program requires all 30 of NSW open cut coal mines to assess their dust control plans including minimising haul road emissions and enforcing poor weather operation standards.
“Mine haul roads are generally dirt roads and sustain continuous heavy vehicle traffic,” EPA acting chief executive Mark Gifford said.
“Dust generated from haul roads within the mines is the biggest source of fine dust particles on most mine sites, contributing about 40 per cent of total emissions.
Loading, dumping and moving overburden is also a major source of dust emissions at coal mines.
“When it is windy and dry, this [overburden] dust is more likely to leave mine sites, so tighter control is needed at these times,” Gifford said.
He explained some mines will find it easier than others to comply with the dust standards.
"It depends on their operations," he told the ABC.
"For some mines, they might already be operating at best practice and achieving up to, or beyond, 80 per cent control.
"For some other mines they might find that a challenge and may need to change their operating practices."