An Australian company provides information that allows its customers to determine the best way to manage possible mining-related dust-impact events, in advance

Growing attention to mining-related environmental issues has stimulated the search for new approaches to dust management. In particular, the challenges associated with controlling haul-road fugitive dust emissions have led regulatory agencies to examine these emissions in greater detail. Studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicate that, typically, haul trucks contribute heavily to the total fugitive airborne dust generated at a mine site. With the continuing demand for natural resources, there will be rising interest in the management and control of haul road dust emissions.

                ATMOS Global (ATMOS Australia Pty Ltd.), an Australia-based consulting company specializing in advanced dust impact forecasting, management and control, works with a wide range of companies from a broad range of industries to accurately assess complex air quality risks associated with their operations, increase the efficiency of the recommended risk mitigation measures and improve their environmental strategy and communications. ATMOS Global has been developing and pioneering advanced three-dimensional (3-D) Numerical Weather Prediction and complex air quality modeling, forecasting and management tools for almost two decades.

                ATMOS Global recently launched ATMOS-5D+, the haul-road dust control version of ATMOS-5D, which was released in 2010 and is described as a risk-based dust forecasting and management solution designed to meet the increasingly complex needs for dust control in mining and other industrial sectors. According to the company, ATMOS-5D+ is a unique multi-agent autonomous technology that complements and enhances the efficiency of traditional management practices used for haul-road dust control.

                Dr. Orestis Valianatos, president and CEO of ATMOS Global, explained that, “ATMOS-5D+ sets guidelines for cost-effective courses of fact-based dust management action leading to safer working conditions, reduced environmental consequences and higher productivity, by offering mine operators an opportunity to anticipate, identify and decide a few days in advance—before adverse dust impacts are predicted to happen—what the response to these potential dust impacts will be.”

                ATMOS-5D+ works in tandem with ATMOS Global’s Dust Alert+, which Valianatos said is the world’s first artificial intelligence, multi-factor, multi-criteria, dust-impact early warning system. “ATMOS-5D+ and DustAlert+ combine state-of-the-art meteorological and air quality forecasting concepts and apply mathematical and physical sciences proficiency to the task of delivering more than 25,000 highly specialized site-level dust impact forecasts every year,” said Valianatos.

                ATMOS Global’s daily dust impact forecasts are delivered to customers’ sites via a Web-based interface from ATMOS Global’s main facility. According to the company, its database allows mine operators to use a variety of fixed and mobile devices (computers, smartphones and tablets) and communication channels to interact with forecasting information.

                ATMOS-5D+ and DustAlert+ allow users to adopt an integrated approach that can be customized to accommodate variations in dust management strategies associated with various types of mining activities. These systems are configured to respond to site specific circumstances and to evolve with the growing requirements of the mining operations by allocating dust management resources according to predicted potential dust impacts.

Protecting by Predicting
Western Areas is an Australia-based miner whose main asset is the Forrestania nickel project, located 400 km east of Perth, comprising two mines: Flying Fox and Spotted Quoll. Flying Fox is one of the highest grade nickel mines in Australia and has been in production since 2006. The company’s second mine, Spotted Quoll, began high-grade nickel ore production from the Tim King open-pit during the first half of 2010. Spotted Quoll underground mine development (the Hanna decline) commenced in April 2011. Ore from both mines is processed at the 500,000-mt/y Cosmic Boy nickel concentrator.

                At Spotted Quoll, an environmentally sensitive ‘receptor’—a population of the Declared Rare Flora (DRF) species Eucalyptus steedmanii listed under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act—was identified within 50 ft of the edge of the proposed open pit early in the mine planning stages. A key priority has been to protect this plant population from adverse dust impacts associated with mining activities.

                As explained by Valianatos, based on advance dust-impact risk advice provided by ATMOS-5D+ and DustAlert+, Western Areas makes decisions regarding dust mitigation measures using site specific fugitive dust emissions profiles (calculated by using ATMOS Global’s DustFinder software) of TSP, PM10, PM2.5 and other fractions associated with site mining activities that can include drilling and blasting, bulldozing, excavating, loading and unloading, ore crushing and screening, conveying, waste rock handling, topsoil stripping and stockpiling activities, as well as dust from exposed mining areas, stockpiles and haul roads. Western Areas also is provided with high-resolution, site-specific weather information generated daily by ATMOS-5D to help assess the risk level for each event.

                The system, according to the company, allows Western Areas to prepare an effective response days before potential dust impacts. ATMOS-5D and DustAlert+ were instrumental in assisting Western Areas to reduce annual total dust deposition recorded at the location of the sensitive vegetation in close proximity to the open-pit by 24.2%, even as the annual rate of mining increased by 44.3% for the Spotted Quoll site (2010 versus 2011). Monitoring has proven that there has been no visible decline in the health of the DRF population since Spotted Quoll commenced operation.

                The dust impact forecasting and management information has become an integral part of Western Areas’ employee training programs, and Western Areas and ATMOS Global were jointly nominated by the W.A. Department of Mines and Petroleum as finalists for the 2011 Golden Gecko Awards for Environmental Excellence for implementation of ATMOS-5D at the Spotted Quoll project.

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