We use the best methods available to reduce and suppress all types of dust from freight rail operations along the network. We aim to prevent dust as much as possible.
Everyone at Bowen Rail Company plays a role in making sure our dust control measures are working.
Team members who load our trains at the Carmichael mine, our train drivers and our environmental team at the mine, railway and port are all involved.
When our sister company Bravus Mining and Resources, then known as Adani Mining, constructed the Carmichael Rail Network, they took great care to design the railway and its operations in a way that would minimise and eliminate coal and other dust. Now the Carmichael Rail Network is operating daily, we continue to strive for excellence in coal dust management.
What is coal dust?
Coal dust is the powder that can be created when coal is crushed into smaller pieces or rubs together during transport.
It can be emitted during coal mining, handling and transport.
After the coal is extracted from the mine, it is delivered to a handling and preparation plant. There it is crushed into smaller sizes to make further transport more efficient. Then some of the coal is washed. Most of the loose particulate matter is removed during the washing process. The remaining coal is then sprayed with water to increase its moisture content to prevent dust creation.
Coal dust is big enough to be seen as it measures about 50 microns to 200 microns in diameter. This compares to the size of a grain of sand at about 90-100 microns.
While it can be a nuisance, it is not considered to have the same level of negative health impact as ultra-fine particulate matter as it cannot enter the lungs.
How we minimise coal dust
At Bowen Rail Company, we take measures to reduce coal dust in line with Australian best practice.
Our dust management plans cover the end-to-end processes from the time our trains are loaded at the Carmichael mine to when they are offloaded at the North Queensland Export Terminal.
Reducting Coal Dust From Pit To Port
Loading coal wagons precisely to ensure they are not overloaded, and coal does not spill out during the journey to the port.
Shaping the load of coal in the wagons into a streamlined profile like a garden bed to prevent dust flying into the air when the wagon is moving.
Spraying each wagon-load of coal with a biodegradable polymer veneer that acts like a varnish or glue to stop dust escaping into the atmosphere.
Not driving our trains at speeds above 80km per hour.
Unloading the coal in an enclosed loading station at the port that is fitted with exhaust fans and is regularly cleaned to remove any coal dust that accumulates.
Monitoring and measuring coal dust
We use three different types of monitoring to measure dust and air quality at the Carmichael mine, along the railway corridor and at the Port of Abbot Point. These help to give the community confidence that our operations are not creating coal dust and to provide us with constant feedback that our dust elimination systems are working. We also provide data about dust in the air from the monitors to the State Government as required in our approvals and under State legislation. Monitoring samples are regularly tested in a certified laboratory.
Beta attenuation monitors (BAM) measure airborne PM10 and PM2.5 particulate concentration levels in the air continuously.
The monitors use beta ray attenuation to determine the concentration of the tiny particles. Further, dust deposition is conducted monthly to measure coal dust particles, insoluble and soluble solids and ash.
Dust is collected in gauges at locations along the Carmichael Rail Network. The PM10 and PM2.5 measurements are recorded fortnightly. Dust monitoring along the Carmichael Rail line has shown that the amount of coal dust in the air more than 50 metres from the railway line is negligible.
The impacts are pretty much negligible more than 50 metres from the rail line, as we expected. This is in line with the [Environmental Impact Statement] EIS prediction there would not be significant impacts from dust.
Bowen Rail Company Environmental Manager, Joshua Moore
What are PM2.5 and PM10 particles?
PM2.5 and PM10 are microscopic particles in the air that can impact people’s health at high levels. PM2.5 are particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (0.0025mm) or less and PM10 are 10 micrometres (0.01mm) or smaller. These particles are generally created from combustion of fuel, smoke from bushfires and heaters and industrial processes. Their tiny size means they can be inhaled into the lungs.
What happens if there are elevated dust levels?
At Bowen Rail Company, we take our environmental management responsibilities very seriously. If our proactive monitoring identifies a trigger for excess dust, then we report and start corrective action immediately. This includes determining the problem, identifying the root cause, deciding an appropriate action, taking that action, and evaluating it after the event.
These actions are undertaken in line with our regulatory requirements and internal plans. Likewise, if there is a complaint, we will assess it in a timely manner.
When there are concerns, we may utilise trailer-mounted air quality monitoring beta attenuation monitor (BAM) units to confirm the disturbance.
These mobile monitoring stations can be placed at receptors or along the rail corridor where the exceedance is expected to take place. We may also deploy a high-volume air sampler.
Where does the dust come from?
People who see dust along coal-rail lines may assume it is all coal dust, however, that is not likely to be the case. A Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection analysis of dust along the Western-Metropolitan Rail System in 2017 found black dust made up only 14.4 per cent of the total dust, which was mainly rock and soil dust (63.5 per cent) and other dust (19.1). Of the black dust, just 2 per cent was coal dust. The other components were black rubber (10.4 per cent) and soot (2 per cent).
We monitor air quality to ensure our operations do not create elevated levels of these particles. Along the Bowen Rail corridor there are controls in place to minimise dust and particulate matter. In line with environmental regulations and Queensland law, we ensure air quality in and around our operations is clean and safe with a maximum concentration of an average of 8μg per cubic metre for PM2.5 over a year, and 25μg per cubic metre for PM10.
In Australia, we are fortunate to breathe clean air. Queensland air quality levels can be found on the Queensland Government website.