If you are still using water for dust control in your underground mine, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Water is an extremely temporary solution that, in the long run, both wracks up costs and wears away the surfaces it’s used on. As a reactive mining dust control measure, you are likely spending far more on it than you imagine.
Using water for mining dust control remains the most common method for dust suppression. Most mine owners or managers assume water is an affordable option for controlling dust. But if you examine this myth in more detail, you’ll quickly see it’s a very expensive assumption.
Reason #1: The Direct Cost of Water Used for Underground Mining Dust Control
There are several different factors that play into the cost of water. First, of course, you are paying for the time your water carts and drivers spend operating. In high traffic areas, water only keeps dust in place for a few hours at a time. This means your carts are making multiple trips a day, often interfering with the core operation of your mine.
Second, keeping up with this rigorous application schedule means a massive volume of water. According to one source, water for dust control requires about four liters of water per square meter, per day (or one gallon per 10.8 square feet). For some quick math, take the total square footage of your mine, multiply by 3 (to approximately cover your roads, ribs and ceilings), and divide by 10.8. You’ll see very quickly how many gallons of water you’re using if you aren’t already tracking usage.
Not only is the volume of water used in mining dust control vast, but in arid regions, water is increasingly expensive to access.
Reason #2: The Opportunity Cost of Water Used as a Dust Suppression System
Regular water usage comes with plenty of opportunity costs as well.
- Staff required to operate watering equipment can’t be utilized elsewhere.
- Equipment used for watering takes up road space that could be used for hauling product out of the mine, thereby decreasing productivity.
- Even when product can be moved, the muck that road surfaces are turned into from constant watering bog down equipment, slowing transport and creating more delays.
- Constant usage of equipment for watering roads increases maintenance costs and decreases the lifetime of equipment.
Reason #3: The Health and Environmental Cost of Using Water for Mining Dust Control
Water droplets can only capture dust particles that are roughly similar in size. This inefficiency means that the smallest particulate matter — such as PM 2.5, which stays in the air the longest, travels the furthest, and goes deeper into the lungs to cause greater health problems — can stay air born. Therefore, water provides little to no help in solving the greater health risks posed by improper dust control.
Reason #4: The Long-term Impact of Using Water as a Dust Control System
Over the long term, using water on your underground roads and ribs will cause degradation to your operations. Constant water usage washes away fines, or the particulate matter that holds your road surface together. As time goes on, your underground mine surfaces will literally wash away.
The degrading quality of the roads and ribs will also slow down transportation and produce greater wear and tear on your vehicles. An increase in maintenance and grading will add to the cost burden of your underground mine maintenance.
Conclusion: Water Fails as an Underground Mine Dust Control System
Put simply, water doesn’t work to control dust in underground mines. It’s expensive and wasteful.
For nearly half a century, Midwest Industrial has championed the reduction of water used in mining operations. We have stepped beyond a mere product to develop an entire underground mine dust control system that is customized to your specific mine. It reduces dust, saving you money on maintenance and repairs, regulatory fines and decreased productivity.
Depending on the location we service, dust can be reduced by up to 95%, compared to the less than 50% effective rate of water. We can reduce water usage by up to 95%.
And here’s the best part: we let you test our customized program — which contains the only sprayer designed to spray roads, ribs and ceilings in one pass and a dust control formula that only requires 1-2 passes per month. We will work with you to track results, so you can see exactly how much we’re saving you.
To learn more about our dust control system and how we work with you, visit MineKleen.com.
Water used per day in dust control operations: https://www.australianmining.com.au/features/wasting-water-on-dust-control/