Dust is an ever present issue on site, but when this is coal dust the problem is multiplied.
Coal dust particles are often small enough to easily be inhaled, and can lead to what is commonly known as 'black lung'.
Australian company RST is fighting this problem through the launch of its latest technology Total Coal Control (TCC).
RST says TCC technology not only provides a dust suppressing formula to stop coal fly-aways and improve its transportation, but it also offers quality control treatment during the material handling process to ensure "only the best coal product is delivered form pit to port".
RST technical and operations director David Handel said the company identified a gap in the market for technology that has a "total dust solution" that also protects the quality of coal at the end of the supply.
"Our aim was to develop a product that not only did its job in terms of dust suppression, better control and less escapement, but also treated the coal within containment to ensure the best possible product is delivered at the end of the line," Handel explained.
TCC has the ability to protect coal from moisture and oxidation.
"We have estimated Queensland pumps out around two million rail wagons of coal a year with 80 MT of coal per wagon; however the quality of coal is often ruined during the material handling process.
"By using TCC we are able to stop degradation occurring, which in turn gives coal buyers a delivered product that has a higher calorific value than non-treated coal," he said.
Importantly, it also has the ability to prevent self combustion within stockpiles as well as halting rain erosion, slumping and further material loss.
Spontaneous combustion is hard to control as it occurs without an ignition source, additionally it tends to occur when exposed to oxygen, which makes transport and stockpiling difficult as it is almost impossible to avoid oxidisation.
M.E.T.T.S. explained that spontaneous combustion in coal, particularly in washery rejects has always been a problem, and these washery rejects can be seen burning at a number of locations across New South Wales alone.
"Benefits to coal stockpiles also include improvements to the control of self-combustion, minimisation of water penetration, reduced hang up and carry back during conveying and transport, and the improvement of fines recovery at the coal washeries," Handel stated.
He added that in its simplest role "as a dust suppressant Total Coal Control improves visibility, safety and saves large quantities of water".