The mining process creates coal dust which is explosive if not properly controlled. Since 2000, 64 fatalities and 18 injuries have resulted from numerous coal dust explosions. These catastrophic events can happen when methane ignitions lift and then ignite the coal dust present in the mines. The application of inert, pulverized rock dust to the mine roof, walls, and floor is one of the main means for maintaining an incombustible dust mixture necessary to prevent explosions.
The current method used to determine whether enough rock dust has been applied requires sending a collected sample to a laboratory and then waiting days or weeks until results are received. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -developed Coal Dust Explosibility Meter provides coal mines with a tool to immediately determine if more rock dust should be applied to maintain safe levels. The Coal Dust Explosibility Meter also considers dust particle sizes in its measurements. The finer the coal dust, the more explosible it is. The Coal Dust Explosibility Meter is a major improvement over the current method in that the current laboratory method cannot distinguish dust particle size and thus does not measure explosion potential. The Coal Dust Explosibility Meter evaluates particle size and indicates if more rock dust is needed to inert the finer-sized coal dust particles. Due to the commercialization and help of NIOSH, to date, over 200 meters have been purchased by the coal mining industry.
Marcia Harris, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Cindy Hollerich, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mike Sapko, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Eric Weiss, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Floyd Varley, Yukon Zinc