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Why do mining sites and gas fields require a good automatic weather station?

Mine managers require accurate and timely site specific weather data for a number of reasons.

EPA & Statutory Requirements: Environmental Impact Statement
When applying for mining leases and approvals, a reliable automatic weather station can be used to undertake a local climate (microclimate) weather audit. Baseline weather data from this audit can be used in the preparation of an environmental impact statement and various reports required by state EPA and government authorities concerned with the likely movement of dust and toxic gases, wet season run-off and the leaching of chemicals into waterways etc.

Impact of weather on mine production, worker comfort and safety and community wellbeing
Data from an initial weather audit (and subsequent, on-going weather monitoring through an automatic weather station) can inform decisions which will impact directly on mine production, worker comfort and the wellbeing of neighbouring communities. For example:

  • Rainfall and soil moisture data can inform risk management strategies associated with mine and site flooding, all-weather road access, slope stability and the siting and construction of mine infrastructure and worker facilities. This same data will inform the management of run-off during heavy rain and strategies to revegetate mined land.
  • Standalone logging rain gauges across sites, when accompanied by suitable telemetry and SMS alarms, can inform management when sites are likely to become inaccessible or mud and water likely to impact mining operations.
  • Automation. Pumps and valves in open cut mines likely to flood can be activated by weather sensors when pre-set rainfall volumes are reached within a particular time frame.
  • Evaporation rates can be measured via the FAO56 Calculation within the Weather Maestro, based on wind speed, air temperature, relative humidity and solar radiation sensors. This has implications for determining when operations can recommence after a major rain event, and for monitoring of tailings dams and other water storages.
  • Temperature, UV radiation, radiant heat and relative humidity data has a direct implication for the establishment of a safe working environment. (On the basis of this data, management can develop strategies to reduce the likelihood of workers suffering heat stress illness, excessive UV exposure, etc.)
  • Wind direction and wind speed data:
  • Enables monitoring of the movement and dispersion of dust and hazardous gases
  • Influences dust suppression strategies (e.g. frequency with which mine access roads and pit areas are watered)
  • Influences the design and positioning of worker quarters, administration ‘dongas’ and workshop facilities/laboratories etc.
  • Is also critical in ensuring that local residents and communities are not negatively impacted by excessive or hazardous dust drift from the mine site (see WHS section below).

Data from each of these weather sensors also has implications for the design, selection and maintenance of plant and machinery capable of operating under the climatic conditions experienced at the mine site.

Weather data can help determine plant and machinery maintenance cycles, the selection of oils and lubricants, corrosion management strategies etc. Ambient temperature has a major bearing on tyre pressures used in dump trucks and mine vehicles.

Work Place Health and Safety Issues:
Dust
Excessive exposure to dust generated through mining activity can cause health issues for workers and local communities. As w ell as causing eye and throat irritation, dust generated through mining activity (e.g.: coal dust, iron oxides, crystalline silica and asbestos) can trigger asthma and serious respiratory and lung disorders.

Weather Maestros, which are equipped with wind speed wind direction sensors, air temperature sensors and relative humidity sensors, allow mine managers to monitor breezes and implement strategies to lessen the risk associated with wind bourne dust.

Hazardous gases
Engineers need to be able to track the movement of escaping toxic or volatile gases from a well head or mine. The same weather station sensors used to track the movement of dust can be used to map the movement of these gases and implement strategies to ensure the safety of workers and the local community.

So when you are choosing a Mining Weather Station
There are several essential criteria for a weather station at a mining site or minerals exploration facility:

  • Robust for tough environment
  • On-site service
  • Backup support
  • Remote access options
  • Australian made for ready availability of parts and service
  • Meets Australian Standards for horizontal wind monitoring
  • Meets EPA licence requirements
  • On demand access to critical management data

Supplied by Matthew Probets at Environdata www.environdata.com.au

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