Going beyond water usage to create effective dust suppression solutions

Increasingly stringent environmental legislation has resulted in onsite dust suppression systems playing a role of continued importance in the African mining industry, and I-CAT Environmental Solutions has been a leader in this field since 2007.

Pretoria-based I-CAT is a leading environmental solutions company that specialises in the development of products and services that ensure environmental compliance for its industrial clients. Non-executive director professor Jan du Plessis notes that dust suppression has evolved from an optional minimal compliance system into fundamental necessity in the local mining sector.

“Dust is a pervasive problem that undermines the health of workers, impacts negatively on the surrounding environment and substantially reduces the lifespan of machinery. It can damage even the most sophisticated equipment and technology. It is, therefore, imperative to effectively control dust on a continuous basis with objectives that reach far beyond legislative compliance,” he explains.

Numerous variables can be associated to excessive dust generation in the mining sector, however, the main contributor is widely recognised as haulage roads with large volumes of traffic. Other operational processes such as blasting, drilling, dumping and loading are also major contributors.

Although water is the most commonly used dust suppressant, it is severely limited in its effectiveness, states du Plessis. “Using only water to control dust is a perpetually costly task that offers limited dust suppression. The futility of wasting time, money, and precious water resources is increased as the water quickly evaporates, and dust is again released into the environment.”

Through its commitment to continuous research and development, I-CAT is able to ensure efficient dust control and full environmental compliance for its clients, through innovative and cost effective products that assist with surface stabilisation, while ensuring a significant reduction in water usage.

Dust suppressant products

RDC 20 is a water soluble anionic polyelectrolyte polymer that is exclusively developed by I-CAT. It is an innovative formulation of blended emulsified co-polymers and ionic modifiers. When sprayed onto the road surface, RDC 20 forms a durable cross linked matrix. The matrix binds fine soil particles into larger heavier particles, which are less prone to become airborne. RDC 20 is used on temporary roads, as it is a cost efficient means to improve road and dust conditions exponentially.

Du Plessis reveals that I-CAT has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from mines where the product is applied, and especially where I-CAT is contracted to manage the dust control on mine roads. “The overall ambient dust at our largest operation in the Northern Cape has improved by more than 40 percent, when compared the readings prior to I-CAT managing the secondary roads at the mine. This is an extraordinary achievement that would not be possible without RDC 20.”

Misting systems

The ‘DustMonster’ range of machinery minimises the effects of dust by creating an ultra-fine mist that attracts dust and encapsulates the airborne particles, before driving them to the ground. The units are fully automatic, easily adaptable and portable. “With its rugged 44 Kw motor and user-definable 359 degree oscillation, the DustMonster boasts a throw of more than 100 m, thereby ensuring that its dust trapping atomised mist has a coverage area of 2,6 hA,” adds du Plessis.

I-CAT is also the exclusive local distributor of the Scrub Mist System – a technologically advanced mist nozzle system developed and manufactured in the USA. Du Plessis reveals that the most notable advantage of the Scrub Mist System is the fact that it boasts ecologically neutral technology. “This technology breaks down water drops between 50 to 200 microns, thereby neutralising and controlling dust at the source of emission via the grouping of dust elements into larger agglomerations.”

Green solutions

GreenGrip is a natural polymer based gravel road sealant. It is an environmentally safe alternative to chemically based products for semi-permanent gravel roads on mines and residential areas. The solution produces a durable, smooth and dust free surface with fewer maintenance intervals. GreenGrip is water soluble and is also easily incorporated into routine dust suppression procedures with no requirement for special equipment or handling precautions. For permanent dust roads, I-CAT supplies a bitumen-based dust suppression solution called GreenBit.

Camera-based technology

Water and fuel are precious commodities on open pit mines, and spillage and overfilling are a major challenge in the industry. In order to overcome this costly and wasteful trend, du Plessis points out that I-CAT developed the E-CAM system with intergrated RFID,  a camera based technology that assists water bowser operators in lining up 85 000 ℓ water bowsers at the filling points located across the mine.

“In the past, this tedious task involved the driver regularly climbing out of the vehicle before aligning it with the filling point. The element of human error often resulted in misalignment and spillage. I-CAT’s E-CAM camera technology ensures pinpoint alignment without the driver having to set foot outside of the bowser. This substantially reduces the risk of spillage, and also leads to significant time and cost savings,” he continues.

I-CAT was established from humble beginnings in 2007, and today the company boasts a complement of internationally recognised clients from across Africa. In addition to its dust suppression solutions, I-CAT also offers clients environmentally sustainable services in the fields of; water solutions, environmental management solutions, carbon solutions, agro-forestry and fire solutions.

Looking to the future, du Plessis is optimistic of continued growth. “Environmental compliance is more important than ever before and, given the rapid acceleration of growth across all major industries in Africa, demand for suitable products and services is set to increase. I-CAT has established itself as a proven market leader over the years. As a result, the company is recognised as a preferred supplier to the industry, and has placed itself in a strong position to achieve future growth,” he concludes.

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