In a survey of big blue chip and what are categorised as junior mining companies, African Mining Brief unearths a big discrepancy between awareness and compliance with acceptable dust suppression standards. However, in the face of this, OEMs are upping their game in product research and development.
By now, every well-informed mine manager in sub Saharan Africa should be very aware about the importance of effective haul road dust suppression. This is because legislation in various mining jurisdictions is uncompromising on compliance, in addition, operating costs are mounting.
Pitifully, despite the high level of consciousness, the state of haul road dust suppression the average African mine is, for all intents and purposes, still in an appalling state. In fact, as an official from South African Department of Mineral Resources told African Mining Brief on the side lines of the 2015 African Mining Indaba, African mines could easily be amongst some of the worst culprits of poor dust suppression in the world. He remarked: “Unfortunately, this (haul road dust suppression) remains an area where mines still think they can cut costs (where cutting costs would mean either the use of cheap interventions at whatever costs or doing nothing at all).”
Overlooked bottom-line benefits
African Mining Brief asked product managers from ten of some of the leading OEMs and suppliers of dust suppression products and systems to African mines to gain insight about the benefits of good dust control to mining operations. They singled out the following facts:
- By improving the road surface condition there is less wear and tear on haul vehicles. This can also be experienced in the improvement of tyre life expectancy by up to 7%;
- A reduction in haul road rolling resistance which results in noticeable improvement in haul times;
- A drastic reduction in water consumption (with good products up to 70%). Water efficiency is achieved when surface tension is reduced and moisture is locked. This stops the water from evaporating and reduces the need for frequent dust solution reapplication.
- Significant saving in fuel cost savings; and
- Reduction in haul road maintenance (even better when the solutions used strengthens and hardens road structure).
In no doubt, looking at incredible innovations that continue flooding the market, an acceptable level of compliance should be possible.
African Mining Brief is informed that new products and systems have been launched in the past four years and more are definitely in the offing.
One of the recent products to have emerged is a bitumen-based emulsion which when applied to the road’s surface create an all-weather surface. Mud and dust free, it has proved effective in the safe and cost-effective transportation of materials.
Another intervention which is making dust suppression manageable is mechanical misting system.
Some suppliers have gone a notch higher to launch biodegradable products, which are environmentally friendly, to address the concern of products with corrosive compounds.
African Mining Brief is also informed that dust problems vary from one mine to another. For instance, the challenge of fugitive dust on a haul road may not be necessarily the same as on the secondary road. Thus, a precise assessment of a particular challenge should be made.
Another fact that cannot be dismissed is that gone are days of a supplier providing a product and leaving a customer to its own devices. Now mines want more: site visits to assist with the installation, application and demonstrating a system’s features and functions.
Some dust control solutions are not as failsafe as their dealers might proclaim, as African Mining Brief has discovered. High maintenance requirements and high environmental footprint are cited as the main reservations that mines often experience with some products. This is demonstrated by a product which company X supplied to a mine in the Katanga region, DRC which has been said to have structurally changed a haul road on a cobalt mine. “The dust level was reduced but driving on it became a challenge. This was more than we had bargained for,” a fleet manager confides to this publication in a telephone interview.
In general, this underscores that mines should make informed procurement decisions as they are in a quest to comply with respective regulations governing haul road dust suppression. It’s a no brainer. While good compliance is a result of a combination of a number of factors, and the most important one is sound procurement of solutions to be applied.