A three month trial of a weather forecasting system to help reduce dust emissions from Upper Hunter mine sites has begun, delivering on a project idea developed with participants of the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue.
“While mines currently use weather forecasts to some extent to plan their activities, more consistent use of weather forecasts across all Upper Hunter mine sites was agreed by Dialogue members as an opportunity to improve regional dust management,” NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said.
During the trial, all Upper Hunter mines will receive daily email forecasts of weather conditions for the three days ahead. The emails will highlight times when weather conditions are more likely to generate dust. This will help mines plan their operations to manage dust during those times, such as ensuring water carts are available or preparing to move operations lower in the pit.
Environmental consultants Environ analysed 12 months of historical weather and air quality data to determine the weather conditions associated with higher dust levels, including wind speed, temperature, rainfall and atmospheric stability. The analysis was used to develop ‘triggers’ of higher risk weather conditions.
Weather forecasting company Weatherzone has now been commissioned to implement the trial by integrating the triggers into a regional weather forecast model and distributing the daily email updates.
“The trial will provide an opportunity for each mine to assess how well the system works in practice and determine the best way forward to ensure a more consistent use of weather forecast information to help minimise dust emissions at mine sites in the Upper Hunter,” Mr Galilee said.
“Air quality and meteorology are complex sciences. There are many sources of dust, weather forecasts can change, and there can be localised effects that a regional model might not pick up. This project isn’t a silver bullet but it adds to the growing arsenal of tools available to mines to manage dust,” Mr Galilee said.
“This is just one element of the increasingly sophisticated dust management systems used by mining. It will complement the real time air quality monitoring systems in place and the ‘Dust Stop’ Pollution Reduction Programs that all mines are working on with the NSW EPA to reduce emissions from haul roads and overburden dumps,” Mr Galilee said.