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The challenge

Mitigating dangers

Mine gas, spontaneous combustion (sponcom), fires, dust and coal burst are life-threatening hazards in mining, particularly in coal mining.

Not only do these issues affect the safety and health of people working in the industry, they can also have a significant influence on the financial viability of a coal mine.

These issues are difficult to control because the mine environment is complex and its natural geology can make it inherently dangerous.

To understand and mitigate these risks, mines need better modelling tools, with greater emphasis on integrated analyses and control technologies.

Gas management is particularly critical for improving safety and productivity in underground coal mines. 

Our response

Making mining safer

Working with university and industry partners, we are continually developing science capability and innovations to help the mining industry improve safety and productivity.

We are working on tools and technologies to reduce issues with gas, sponcom, dust and coal burst in existing operations.  

We are also helping to ensure new mines are developed with much improved safety through advanced R&D in the following areas: 

  • modelling tools and technologies to reliably predict gas and coal bursts and develop outburst prevention and control technologies
  • science of goaf gas flow mechanics and drainage technologies to manage high goaf gas emissions in wider longwall faces and deep coal mines
  • inertisation strategies for prevention and control of spontaneous combustion, heatings and fires in coal mines
  • science of dust and water spray flow patterns in production faces
  • dust-control technologies and strategies to manage dust in modern high-production longwall mines
  • modelling techniques to predict the influence of stress and geological structures, and novel technologies to monitor the risk of coal burst
  • tools to minimise the impact of gas on safety, productivity and efficiency in underground coal mines
  • new methods and novel functional nanomaterials for respirable dust monitoring and silica content analysis, and
  • advanced laboratory facilities and instruments for dust sampling, dust characterisation, chemistry analysis, and materials synthesis and characterisation. 

Many of these critical projects are collaborations with and are funded by the Australian Coal Industry Research Program (ACARP) and individual mining companies.

Mine safety and health case studies

  • We've developed technologies which can predict and monitor coal burst risk, the major life-threatening risk to workers in underground coal mines.

  • Overexposure to coal dust can lead to coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) or ‘black lung disease’, which can be fatal. We have developed better technologies and strategies to reduce coal-mine workers’ exposure to dust which are being used in many mines today.

  • The risk of fires and explosions is a major safety concern in underground coal mines, with catastrophic consequences if robust monitoring and control measures are not in place to deal with this complex hazard.

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