Dust from mine tailings is a significant concern for communities surrounding inactive and active mines. The problems caused by dust affect people and the environment in a number of ways, which is why it is important to control the dust from mine tailings quickly and effectively.
What Are Mine Tailings?
Mining operations mine for minerals of interest, such as lead, zinc, copper, silver, and gold. After these minerals are extracted from the rocks that contain them, they leave behind large piles of crushed rock called mine tailings. Due to the inefficiency of the extraction process, these tailings contain a high concentration of unwanted minerals. Concentrated exposure to these unwanted minerals is often dangerous to humans and the environment.
How Is the Dust Formed From the Mine Tailings?
Dust is a generic term for the small dry particles of matter found in the earth. Dust is formed when fine particles are taken up from the earth and into the atmosphere, usually by wind or other physical disturbances. As a result of the crushing and grinding in the extraction process of mining, the crushed rocks of mine tailings become fine particles capable of being suspended in the atmosphere as dust.
What Problems Does Dust Cause?
Dust control measures can significantly reduce the harmful effects of dust. Without dust control, there are 3 significant problems caused by the dust from mine tailings.
1. Dust Inhalation Makes It Harder to Breath
Dust inhalation is the most likely way people are exposed to the harmful materials of the mine tailings. Dust from mine tailings is especially dangerous to human health due to its physical characters. The small particles are more easily inhaled and deposited in the lungs. These mine tailings can consist of any number of harmful minerals and employees involved in the mine extraction process as especially at risk for inhaling dust.
2. Communities Are at Risk From Dust
Due to their small size, the harmful minerals in dust from mine tailings can be transported through the wind to communities surrounding mining operations. The contaminants in dust can expose people to harmful substances such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium. These contaminants can increase the risk of cancer, blood and nerve disorders, and damage other organs.
3. Dust Harms the Environment
The piles of mine tailings protrude above the neighboring terrain and make them highly susceptible to wind erosion. Wind erosion and the deposition of windblown dust from mines can have significant harmful effects on the surrounding environment.
What Dust Control Product Should I Use?
All mines are required to have a mine tailings dust control program to combat these concerns and ensure the well-being of employees and the community. Environmental Products and Applications, Inc. offers lab-tested advanced polymer-based erosion and dust control products. The Envirotac line of polymers has been assisting mines to reduce airborne particulate matter for over 25 years. Contact us to find out how Envirotac can help reduce the costly problems caused by dust.