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Mining takes place on almost every continent, most of which is done in South Africa, the United States of America, China and Australia. Through the processes of both surface and underground mining, many different types of aerosols can be produced—some of which can be harmful to both human health and the environment. As we become more cognizant of the impact mining dust has on air quality, protection agencies have passed regulations to decrease the impact mining may have on human health and the surrounding communities. Worker safety has long been a concern as well, and modern practices have significantly improved the safety in mines.
A few examples of these regulations include the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) recent Respirable Coal Dust Rule and OSHA’s new Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard. The Clean Air Act, established by the EPA, regulates emissions of hazardous air pollutants to protect public health and welfare. Mine operators struggle every day with meeting the demands of keeping their employees safe and continuing to be compliant. One way to ensure that you are within compliance and that your mining practices are not having an effect on the surrounding communities, is to continuously monitor the aerosols emitting from the mines.
Common mining minerals include, but are not limited to, gold, silver, coal, platinum group metals (PGM), and cobalt. During the mining process, numerous aerosols are generated that can be harmful to human health, such as quartz, silica, arsenic, diesel and particulate matter.
Throughout the industry, permissible exposure limits (PEL) have been established to determine how much of the aerosol can be inhaled with adverse health effects. Aerosol size is the most important characteristic for health risk classification, as size determines where the particle is deposited in the lungs. Particles 10 micro meters in diameter and below can reach the throat and lungs when inhaled. The smaller the particle, the deeper into the lungs it can travel.
Industry terms used to characterize these sizes of aerosols are PM10, PM4 (also known as Respirable) and PM2.5. PM is short for Particulate Matter, and the number corresponds the size of particle in micro meters. In contrast, the human hair is roughly 50-70 micro meters in diameter.
Monitoring the dust concentration from your mining operation can help ensure the protection of the mine employees and the surrounding communities. Air quality monitoring instruments can be implemented throughout the interior of underground mines, in addition to being deployed around the perimeter of the site, ensuring the particulate matter is not at dangerous levels when it leaves the property and makes its way into the environment.
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Through a TSI Link™ Solutions Data Services and Integration subscription, you can harness the power of TSI and create a one-stop view of data for your different devices.
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