The Dialogue works with industry and government to support projects that aim to provide accurate weather forecasting to manage air quality impacts.
One of the Dialogue’s key projects under the air quality theme has been to increase the accuracy of air quality forecasting for the Upper Hunter to ensure that impacts arising from air quality are minimised and managed onsite.
Mining companies and government regulators recognise that dust emissions from mining activities can be a serious issue if not closely monitored and effectively controlled. Effective air quality management is a part of daily work procedures at Upper Hunter mines and is every mine worker’s responsibility. Air quality begins with the way a mine is designed, and continues into its operational management, right up to the end of its life through rehabilitation.
The Dialogue has undertaken two key forecasting projects in this area, including the Weather Forecasting Project, and the Community Weather Forecast Notification Project
Weather Forecasting Project
This project sought to use weather forecasts to allow groups of mines to manage operations to minimise dust emissions before and during adverse weather conditions e.g. consistent Trigger Action Response Plans (TARPs) across operations based on weather forecast results.
A range of techniques and technologies are implemented at individual mines to minimise dust emissions, but the Dialogue identified an opportunity to improve the information available to operations across the region so that action can be taken.
The Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue worked with experts, including Australia’s largest private weather service Weatherzone, to trial a new application that assesses forecast weather conditions and alerts mines to conditions that contribute to dust generation.
The Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue has worked with industry to achieve consistent use of weather forecast information across operating sites to reduce or avoid air quality impacts from Upper Hunter mines.
As the result of this project, each mine operates an extensive network of air quality monitoring stations in and around each mining operation that provide up to date data in real time. These monitoring networks are supported by the industry-funded, government-managed real time Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network. Operated independently by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the network’s readings are available online, giving industry and the community access to this information in real time.
By using weather forecast information, mines plan ahead and make informed decisions about managing air quality. If adverse conditions are forecast, measures are put in place to minimise the impact. Such measures include, but are not limited to:
- Postponing blasting to avoid unfavourable wind conditions;
- Closing elevated exposed working areas, and operating only at lower levels;
- Limiting traffic to main haul roads;
- Wetting dry areas by using water carts;
- Reducing vehicle speeds to minimise wheel generated dust; and if necessary,
- Ceasing operations until conditions improve.
Community Weather Forecast Notification Project
The Dialogue’s Joint Working Groups have also been actively involved in working with the NSW Government, experts, and the community to help facilitate the development of a Dust Risk Forecasting Scheme.
The aim of this scheme is to improve forecast information and predictions to help the community prepare in advance for times when air quality could be poor. The scheme has progressed through several trials and modelling which found the air quality in the region to be generally good during the trial period.
Developed by the NSW Environment Protection Authority and DPIE, the Dialogue continues to work with both agencies and departments to progress the project and has provided feedback to encourage its continued development and refinement.
Clearing the Air Video – This is a summary video on air quality and the actions that sites across the Upper Hunter undertake each day to ensure impacts arising from their operations are minimised and managed effectively for local communities and the environment.
NSW Government – Enhancing air quality forecasting in NSW (Dust Risk Forecasting Scheme)