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Conference Proceedings

Australian Mine Ventilation Conference 2017

Conference Proceedings

Australian Mine Ventilation Conference 2017

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Products of reactive pyrite oxidation in the mine environment - implications for coal workers' pneumoconiosis

Coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) has re-emerged as a major concern in the Australian coal mining industry. Harmful effects from coal dust inhalation have been well documented, but the underlying causes and mechanisms of CWP are still debatable. Research conducted in the USA has proposed a plausible link between the presence of pyrite in coal and the prevalence of CWP. Reactive pyrite in coal oxidises under ambient mine conditions to produce various iron sulfate minerals such as melanterite, rozenite, roemerite and szomolnokite. Rapid reaction rates are promoted by the form (size and morphology) of the reactive pyrite present, which provides both increased surface area and increased porosity for easy air access to reaction sites. The products formed from reactive pyrite oxidation are often needle-like crystals with thicknesses in the order of 1-2m (egmelanterite and rozenite) and prismatic crystals with thicknesses less than 5m (egroemerite) have been recorded. The densities of these minerals are significantly less than quartz, which makes them prone to becoming airborne with the normal coal dust. In fact, the mix of these mineral salts is commonly referred to as fairy dust' by mine workers due to the way they can become entrained and sparkle in the mine ventilation air, particularly if they occur in the upper part of a seam that is forming a coal roof. Examples are presented of the various products of reactive pyrite oxidation found in three Australian coal samples, which provide evidence of the physical and chemical mechanisms that would support the USA findings, particularly in terms of a source of bioavailable iron leading to increased inflammatory stress response.CITATION:Beamish, B B, Ward, C R and Chalmers, D, 2017. Products of reactive pyrite oxidation in the mine environment - implications for coal workers' pneumoconiosis, in Proceedings Australian Mine Vent Conference 2017, pp 87-92 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).
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  • Published: 2016
  • PDF Size: 1.219 Mb.
  • Unique ID: P201704014

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