Dust monitoring on rail routes gets funding

QUEENSLAND rail system users, including New Hope Coal, will fund an independent program to measure the performance of planned dust management initiatives this year in a “coal corridor” to the Port of Brisbane.

Lou Caruana

The first round of comprehensive monitoring, starting next week, will gather baseline information on dust and particle levels at key sites adjacent to the rail corridor, Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said.

Monitoring will be conducted for a month at dedicated sites in Oakey, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Tennyson, Fairfield and Coorparoo, adjacent to the coal rail corridor. Simultaneous monitoring at Chelmer, which is not adjacent to the coal corridor, will provide background control measurements.

“Where possible, the monitoring is being conducted at the same locations used for a Queensland Rail coal dust monitoring study in 1999,” Roche said.

“This way, comparative and trend analysis can be incorporated to better inform all stakeholders.”

An independent agency – the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Sciences Branch of the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts (DSITIA) – will gather the data.

“While all previous testing available has indicated that dust levels along the rail corridor are well within acceptable air quality limits – as shown by testing conducted at Tennyson in September-October – the Newman government has laid down a challenge to the coal industry to lift the bar with respect to environmental outcomes,” Roche said.

“I am pleased to say that the challenge has been accepted readily by the South West System Users’ Group that is funding the monitoring program.”

A second round of dust monitoring at the same seven sites for an additional month will allow an assessment of the impact of the introduction of veneering technology on coal transported from the New Acland mine, west of Toowoomba.

Mine owner New Hope Group is proceeding with construction of a coal profiling and veneering station at New Acland, with full operation to start in April, immediately following completion of the first round of dust monitoring.

While the New Acland mine would have been ready to commence profiling and veneering before the end of March, a short delay has been necessary because the recent wet weather has slowed the installation of air-monitoring equipment.

Veneering is accepted best practice in dealing with dust emissions from loaded coal trains and involves the spraying of a biodegradable, non-toxic polymer solution to the surface of loaded coal before leaving a loading facility.

The veneer forms a crust which, based on experience in central Queensland, has reduced dust emissions by up to 75%.

Load profiling also being implemented at New Acland ensures that the coal in the rail wagons has a uniform profile before the application of the veneer solution.

Roche said that as the biggest coal exporter through the Port of Brisbane, New Hope Group (accounting for about 60% of tonnes transported on the rail line) had demonstrated that coal companies and supply chain service providers were serious about community concerns.

“The initiatives announced today – coupled with a sophisticated dust monitoring program already in place at the Port of Brisbane – are going to provide measurable performance indicators that industry, the state government and the community will be able to use with confidence to assess the export coal industry’s environmental performance,” Roche said.