Managing Air Quality

Air quality and dust

Commonly called dust, scientists and regulators refer to the term “Particulate Matter” (PM) to describe the range of particles that exist in the air that we breathe. 

Particulate matter exists naturally in the atmosphere, for example as sea-salt spray and pollens.  It also includes particulates from human activities such as vehicle exhausts, industrial processes, power stations, mining, farming and domestic wood heaters, as well as smoke from bushfires. 

Large particles can cause amenity issues, such as the visibility of dust in the air, as well as settling on washing hung outside, house roofs, outdoor furniture and vehicles. 

Exposure to particulate matter can also be associated with health impacts.  The likely risk of these impacts depends on a range of factors including age and the general health of the person. 

You can read more about the effects of mine dust in the NSW health fact sheet: “Mine dust and you”, which you can download from the NSW government health department website at www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment under the factsheet quick link.

Particle Size

Description

TSP

Total Suspended Particulate Matter (TSP) refers to the total of all particles suspended in the air. Even the largest of these particles is barely half the width of a human hair.

PM10

A subset of TSP, describing those particles with an equivalent spherical disameter of 10um or less (smaller than 1/7th of a hair width). Particles in the size range 2.5um to 10um in diameter are reffered to as coarse particles (PM2.5-PM10)

Sources of particulate matter

Particulate matter emissions from mining can result from a range of processes. Wind movement over exposed ground (waste dumps) and vehicles travelling on haul roads are the most significant dust sources, followed by other processes such as the movement of material, blasting, and stockpiling of coal.

Regulating air quality

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) is the principal piece of legislation regulating pollution (including air pollution) emissions in NSW. Compliance is assessed against conditions in a mines Environmental Protection Licence (EPL) and Development Consent.

Dust generated by mine sites is also regulated against standards adopted by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). These standards are set nationally under the National
Environment Protection Measure – Air. To find out more about these standards visit www.environment.gov.au

Coal mines are required to monitor ambient air quality as a condition of their development consents and/or environment protection licenses issued by the EPA. These conditions require mining operations to manage, monitor and report on concentrations of air pollutants in and around their mines.