Category: Mining Industry / Occupational Health and Safety

Nanoparticles could spell end to Port Hedland dust problem

Monday, 5 Dec 2016 15:33:39 | Jasmine Bamford

The chief executive of a Canadian-based environmental firm says he has a solution to Port Hedland's dust problems and plans to launch a dust control trial within months.

NTI Nanotechnology Corp CEO Andre Voskuil visited Port Hedland at the weekend to meet mining companies, politicians and community members.

He said he secured a handshake deal to launch a pilot program which would test the effectiveness of his company's dust clean-up techniques in Port Hedland.

"I can definitely see that there is a significant dust issue. Walking around the mining sites is perhaps not very fair because obviously there is a lot of dust in those operations," Mr Voskuil said.

"What I can tell you as a visitor, I can certainly feel my lungs having a little bit more trouble breathing and I'm fairly healthy, I'd like to think."

Mr Voskuil described one mining company as "particularly progressive", and said it had asked his company to return to look specifically at its dust problems.

"That's really more than I was expecting on this trip. Some of the other mining companies have been welcoming, but a little more conservative," he said.

"But I haven't been rejected anywhere yet."

Nanoparticles could help stabilise dust

Mr Voskuil suggested a solution that would stabilise the dust by adding a layer of nanoparticles, mainly iron.

But he told the ABC that solving the dust problems in Port Hedland could cost more than $100 million.

"I have to admit that the sheer size of the problem in Port Hedland is in a league of its own," he said.

"We have tackled with this technology sizeable mining sites and mining roads and mining communities mainly in South America, but never of this magnitude to be quite honest with you.

"I think if we look at the size and quantity [of dust] that I've been told exists in Port Hedland and neighbouring communities, I think we are going to talk in the hundreds of millions of dollars to have an environmentally viable solution."

The ABC revealed in October that dust levels in Port Hedland were so dangerous the West Australian Government had been advised to ban new housing, aged care facilities and childcare centres in the town's West End.

A leaked report by the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce, obtained by the ABC, also recommended removing permanent residents from dust-affected areas of the Pilbara mining town.

Mr Voskuil said the mining companies should take responsibility for providing a solution for the workers, the planet and the whole community.

"I'm not going to make myself very popular, but I better say it as it is," he said.

"I don't think it's a political bill to be paid, I think it's a commercial bill to be paid."


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