Assessment of occupational silica exposures on continuous mining operations
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 2002
Data on dust-control practices, mining conditions and occupational exposures were gathered for approximately 80 underground continuous mining units. Despite silica contents on dust samples in excess of 5%, nearly forty units successfully maintained silica concentrations at or below 100 µg/m3 on a majority of occupational dust samples, while the remainder had difficulty maintaining this level. These two sample sets were termed Group A operations and Group B operations, respectively. This data was compared to identify causes of high occupational silica dust exposures. Analyses of dust-control parameters and geologies revealed only minor differences between these two groups. However, subsequent comparisons of face ventilation design showed considerable differences in silica exposure and silica content between Group A and Group B at the continuous mining machine and roof bolter operator occupations. These differences were minimal when using exhaust curtain ventilation with a dust scrubber. This face ventilation system can benefit operations having difficulty controlling silica dust exposure and silica dust content. The collected data also showed that occupational samples from Group B operations possessed generally higher silica exposures and silica content than similar samples from Group A. The single head roof bolter (helper) possessed among the highest silica exposures and silica contents in both groups.