Dust Collectors Can Save Money and LivesWed, 10/21/2015 - 16:03
Dust is a sworn enemy of mining companies, getting inside equipment and causing it to break down, clogging up machinery, and posing a health risk to miners. However, it is a by-product of mining that cannot be fully done away with, only controlled. As Mexico has been seeking to catch up to global standards for environmental, and health and safety performance, its norms for dust suppression have been growing stricter. Every mine must now comply with strict maximum levels of dust that can be in the air. If this is not complied with, then mining companies may see permits to expand their operations denied. This attitude to dust suppressions stems from one specific article in a new norm passed in 2012. This norm sought to incentivize environmental practices in mines by ensuring that expenses incurred when making industrial processes more environmentally friendly would be fully tax deductible.
The impact of mine dust is not limited only to underground mine shafts. The remoteness of mine sites sees camps sprout up or nearby communities expand to cater to the mine. Furthermore, contractors and suppliers are always coming and going on the grounds, potentially being exposed to noxious dust. Thus, if the air is not filtered, these people are prone to health risks such as silicosis, which can cause severe and long-lasting damage to the lungs. This is why Luis Sánchez, Mexico Manager of Camfil Air Pollution Control, says that investing in his company’s products represent an investment with direct operational, economic, and health benefits. “If modern mining operations do not meet air quality standards, they risk being temporarily shut down. Moreover, if a worker dies due to health-related problems and it ties back to the lack of air filtration, it could too shut down operations,” he states.
Originally from Sweden, Camfil has specialized in solving the environmental concerns of different industrial sectors. Its main product range concerns air filters but it has now expanded to the manufacturing of dust collectors. Sánchez explains that Dave Stock, Camfil’s International Mining Director, has allowed the mining industry to represent a strong portion of Camfil’s yearly sales, by helping the company realize all the potential applications for its products in mines. “Dust collectors have been very popular in mines. Our star product line, the Farr GoldSeries, is a cartridge dust collector that was designed to improve on previous dust collectors such as electrostatic precipitators, wet scrubbers, and sleeve collectors. Cartridge collectors improve on every one of these three technologies. Electrostatic precipitators work through electric charges and are large, bulky pieces of equipment. Wet scrubbers require a constant water supply, which can be a problem for mine sites. Sleeve collectors use a textile filter to remove dust from the air and cartridge collectors are their evolution,” explains Sánchez. Cartridge dust collectors have been successful due to their compact size, their ability to filter air without the use of water, higher efficiency and cost benefits. One of those benefits is that the dust which arises from mine processes such as grinding and crushing has high metal content. “Camfil’s dust collectors are thus able to capture valuable material and insert it back into the process. If a company does not collect that dust, then value is being lost. Our Farr Gold Series is able to retain particles with a diameter of 0.3 or more microns, meaning it can collect particles 400 times thinner than a human hair. Moreover, the equipment is built to withstand the abrasive and corrosive environment within a mine.” Camfil’s dust collectors are not just restricted to underground mines. To meet the challenges of air circulation in open-pit mines, hoods are installed around the collectors along with a system of ducts that suction air in and transport it to the dust collectors. This system also has an in-built ventilator to withstand any drop in pressure.
In Mexico, Camfil distributes its products through a company called ProcEquip. In order to promote the benefits of its dust collectors, Camfil supports ProcEquip by having its Mexican and international staff visit mining operations up to two or three times a week. These visits also contain courses on how to improve the operational culture of the mining industry in general and the understanding of dust collection in mining operations. Sánchez reveals that Camfil feels that the time is right to change the working culture of mine operators in Mexico, especially after the pressure placed by the government norm on dust. “Our short-term objectives are thus to raise awareness of the economic, environmental, and health benefits of dust collectors, putting the environmental and health benefits at the forefront of the operations’ priorities. Our longterm objective is to be the number one supplier of dust collection solutions in the world,” says Sánchez. With the likes of Grupo Mexico, Peñoles, Goldcorp, Endeavour Silver, and Scorpio Mining already on Camfil’s books, the company’s best practices in the field of dust collection are spreading around the country.