Mining operations are considered among the most adverse of work environments, potentially hostile and unsafe. Workers may be exposed to a wide range of mineral dusts containing silica, heavy metals, nuisance particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), diesel exhaust emissions during extraction, grinding, separation, and transport.

OSHTECH provides expert services for laboratory analysis and professional support to assist with sampling campaigns, worksite evaluations of conditions in the work environment, compliance verification, etc. Our AIHA-LAP, LLC accredited laboratory and consulting services are here to assist you.

Air contaminants typically associated the mining and mineral processing are listed below.

Silica

Source
Silica is a naturally occurring substance. Respirable silica is created through the mechanical process when rock containing silica is drilled, blasted, crushed or transport.

Characteristics
Respirable silica is very small (<10 micrometers) and breaks down into particles similar to glass shards; they are not visible to the naked eye. Health Effects
Scarring of the lungs resulting in silicosis with long term exposure; other health complications as a result of exposure.

Precautions
Wetting down areas to prevent dust from becoming airborne;ventilation to remove or dilute dust; air sampling for silica.

Sampling and Analysis
Silica is analyzed by NIOSH method 7602. The sample media consists of a pre-weighed PVC filter in a 37mm cassette.

Asbestos

Source

Naturally occurring substance can be contained in a variety of rock types; used in a variety of products e.g. insulation, shingles, ceiling tiles, wall plaster, brake pads, etc.

Characteristics

Long thin fibre (3:1 ratio) <10 micrometers;visible only with a microscope Health Effects

Reaches deep into the lungs and cannot be removed which may result in asbestosis; or a cancer known as mesothelioma

Precautions

Respirators and other appropriate PPE must be worn; containment and proper disposal; air sampling

Sampling and Analysis

Bulk asbestos is analyzed by EPA 600/R-93/116

Asbestos fiber counting samples are analyzed by NIOSH 7400. The sampling media consists of a MCE filter in a 25 mm  cassette with extension cowl.

Nuisance Dust

Source
Created through the mechanical process when rock is drilled, blasted, conveyed or transported

Characteristics

Small minute solid particles with diameters less than 500 micrometers

Health Effects

Short-term effects such as difficulty breathing and red, watery eyes; varies depending on mineral contained in dust

Precautions

Wetting down areas to prevent dust from becoming airborne; ventilation through removal or dilution of dust; air sampling for total dust.

Sampling and Analysis

Samples for nuisance dust can be analyzed by one of three methods:

Respirable nuisance dust is analyzed by NIOSH method 0600. The sampling media consists of a pre-weighed PVC filter in a 37mm cassette, attached to a cyclone.

Total nuisance dust is analyzed by NIOSH method 0500. The sampling media consists of a pre-weighed PVC filter in a 37mm cassette.

Inhalable nuisance dust is analyzed by MDHS 14/4. The sampling media consists of a pre-weighed PVC filter in an IOM cassette.

Diesel Particulate Matter

Source
Emissions of diesel-powered equipment

Characteristics
Contains oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, hydrocarbons, soot

Health Effects

Immediate irritation to the respiratory tract; classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a ‘probable cancer-causing’ substance with repeated exposure.

Precautions

Maintenance of equipment, diesel particulate filters; sampling of equipment, air sampling for Total Carbon; adherence to air flow requirements in underground environment

Sampling and Analysis

Samples for diesel particulate matter are analyzed by NIOSH method 5040. The sampling media consists of a treated quartz filter in a 37 mm cassette.

Carbon Monoxide

Source
Incomplete combustion; blasting operations; confined spaces

Characteristics
Colourless, tasteless and odourless gas

Health Effects
High concentrations can cause chemical asphyxiation and death

Precautions
Monitor air concentrations in the area; provide adequate ventilation; preventive maintenance on vehicles to reduce CO emissions; monitor CO from equipment

Sampling and Analysis

Radon

Characteristics
Colourless, odourless and radioactive gas

Health Effects
High incidence of lung cancer with exposure to repeated high concentrations

Precautions
Air sampling of various locations; ventilation; review geology reports for uranium content

Heavy Metals

Volatile Organic Compounds

Source
Found in the fumes of solvents, paints, adhesives, photocopiers, air fresheners, fabric softeners, and tobacco smoke.

Health Effects

Low levels: fatigue, headache, dizziness and general discomfort

High levels: respiratory irritation, tightness in chest, and nausea

Precautions

Clean up and maintain good housekeeping; ventilate areas; use proper PPE during handling source

Sampling and Analysis

There are a wide variety of methods to samples VOCs. Please consult the laboratory for further information.

Hydrocarbon Fuel Vapours

Oxides of Nitrogen

Consulting Services

OSHTECH provides a comprehensive range of expert services & laboratory analyses to help solve your occupational health, safety & environmental concerns. We specialize in air quality testing, tsting of building construction materials for asbestos, analysis of asbestos in vermiculite insulation, asbestos fibres in air, mold spore evaluations, silica, VOCs, metals, noise and vibration testing, ergonomics, safety inspections, job hazard analysis and environmental engineering.