Quaker Chemical Queensland manager Paul Oliver demonstrating a dust suppression chemical used in underground coal mines.
Quaker Chemical Queensland manager Paul Oliver demonstrating a dust suppression chemical used in underground coal mines. Lucy Smith

Mining companies 'spending big' on reducing dust

WHILE mining companies have been tight-lipped about how their practices have changed since the re-emergence of black lung, one dust suppressant supplier says they've been spending big on his product.

Quaker Chemical Queensland manager Paul Oliver said underground coal companies had spent tens of thousands of dollars on DustGrip Turbo, a liquid spray that reduces respirable dust underground.

Coal worker's pneumoconiosis, or black lung, is a disease caused by inhaling coal dust. It was thought to have been eradicated in Queensland until December last year.

Since then, seven current and former miners have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease.

Since the cases emerged Mr Oliver, a formers mines engineer, has supplied his product to five mines, is trialling at two mines and about to start a trial at Cook mine near Blackwater. He said while the DustGrip Turbo, developed at a lab in Sydney, was more expensive than many of its competitors and other Quaker products, companies had realised the need to spend big.

"When this started, it was hard because the bum dropped out of the industry, so there wasn't as much money around, and then this surfaced," he said.

"But to the pits' credit… they've responded pretty well. They've realised that it's a horrible issue, it's a big, contentious issue, and they can't afford the exposure (from) it.

"They're spending the money. The pumps I use are $5000 each and you need two or three or four. The product isn't cheap either."

Mr Oliver said his latest dust suppression customer was Newlands mine, where mining company Glencore had spent about $50,000 having the pumps installed and product purchased.

Mr Oliver's product is an upgrade to the traditional method of dust suppression, where water is sprayed into the air to reduce coal dust.

That method reduces respirable dust by 10-20%, while DustGrip Turbo can reduce the level by 40-50%.

Companies that own underground mines in the Bowen Basin - Anglo American, Vale and Glencore - declined to comment on their dust suppressant practices.

BHP Billiton provided information that will be printed in Saturday's Daily Mercury.

Spending big

  •  Paul Oliver sells dust suppressants to Broadmeadow, Newlands, Moranbah North, Grosvenor and Oaky North mines.
  •   He's trialling the chemicals at Oaky No. 1 mine and Grasstree mine.
  •  He's about to start a trial at Cook mine, near Blackwater.