How Much Does Dust Control Cost for Mining Companies?

In Dust Control, Mine & Quarry by Jim Silva

Mining companies understandably want to save on dust control, but the best investment is in a comprehensive programs that generates lasting results.

For mid-to-large-sized mining companies, effective dust control is always top of mind. By controlling the amount of respirable dust in the air around worksites, these operations can improve visibility, protect the stability of unpaved roads, and stay in compliance with local, state, and federal air quality regulations.

In addition to keeping regulators happy, mining companies have a responsibility to their workers and their business’s bottom line. Dust control is a must for employee safety and creates a healthy work environment for everyone involved — including nearby communities. At the same time, investing in dust control can help mine operators increase profits by avoiding regulatory fees and minimizing the costs associated with equipment maintenance and road repair.

A Question of Cost

While mining companies agree on the benefits of dust control, they all share the same question: how much does dust control actually cost? This concern reflects an understandable urge to save money while meeting all regulatory obligations — and it typically leads operators to dust control products that charge by the gallon. However, mining companies should consider the unexpected, hidden costs of improper dust control — degraded roads, repeat applications, equipment repairs — even if some vendors offer the lowest upfront price.

Instead, mine operators should focus on adopting a dust control strategy that measures its efficacy by the square foot and is offered as part of a managed service or turnkey solution. In other words, they should pay for a program, not a product.

By employing this type of approach, companies can satisfy their responsibilities both to regulatory bodies and to their workers — all while making sound business decisions that lay the groundwork for years of profitability.

The Cost of Improper Dust Control

Mine operators who try inexpensive dust control measures like watering think they’re saving money. However, they’re actually setting themselves and their staff up for many more future headaches. Application strategies such as watering may provide temporary relief from airborne dust, but they don’t offer the same level of dust control as more advanced chemical solutions. In fact, they can degrade the integrity of the roadbed in the process while creating a bigger dust control problem than you started with.

This is because of something called the negative cycle of watering. Regular watering of worksite roads washes out road fines that help hold the surface of the road together. This contributes to potholes and rutting, which in turn require repeated repairs and grading. As this cycle continues, the long-term durability of the road decreases, ultimately leading mine operators to spend more money on repairs to costly infrastructure that didn’t have to endure such wear and tear in the first place.

A Cost-Effective Approach to Dust Control for Mines

Mining companies would be wise to consider a more strategic approach to dust control that adds future value while saving money in the process. In this way, dust control can be an opportunity for mine operators to preserve resources in the long run rather than cut corners now. By investing in the most cost-effective approach to dust control — one that takes more into consideration than just the dust control product alone — operators can do just that. 

A smarter approach considers additional factors such as weather, climate, and the average use of specific unpaved roads. While buying dust control products by the gallon may allow you to cover as much square footage as necessary, working with a vendor who is familiar with the specifics of your worksite and deeply embedded in the application process can ensure that the dust control products you do purchase go the distance.

From Managed Services to Turnkey Solutions

For mid- to large-sized mining operations, investing in a strategic dust control program as a managed service or turnkey solution is both cost-effective and responsible. Vendors that take your specific site into consideration and are committed to achieving your unique dust control goals will provide more value in the long-term. Plus, with a more comprehensive understanding of your operation, they’ll be able to design a program that will protect your workers and nearby communities.

The market leader in dust control products and solutions for over 40 years, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. can help mining companies develop the most effective dust control program for their specific needs and budget. Equipped with customer goals and a thorough understanding of their specific worksites, the team at Midwest can design, execute, and maintain a program that meets all of your objectives.

Jim is Midwest’s Business Unit Manager for Global Mining. He is experienced in operations management, asset management, and business improvement.