In Coal Mine Dust Characterisation we explore the importance of understanding the size, shape, and mineralogical classes of dust that coal mine workers are exposed to.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) and other mine dust lung diseases in both Australia and the United States. In response to this, exposure monitoring and health surveillance of coal mine workers have been improved in Australia since CWP was re-identified in 2015 in Queensland. Regional variations in the prevalence of mine dust lung disease have been observed, highlighting the need for a more detailed understanding of the dust that workers are being exposed to.

To achieve this understanding, we collected respirable samples of ambient air from eight operating coal mines in Queensland and New South Wales for characterization analysis. The Mineral Liberation Analyser (MLA), a type of scanning electron microscope (SEM), was used to conduct mineral identification. This research initially identified 25 different minerals present in the coal samples and the library was further refined to identify xx mineralogies with varying particle size distributions for the overall samples and the individual mineralogies. While one mine was very consistent in mineralogy with a high carbon content, the other two mines were found to differ more significantly by location within the mine.

It is important to quantify the dust characteristics present in underground coal mines, as the dust characteristics can vary widely between and even within mines, which has implications for the health hazards of that dust. Previous studies have demonstrated that the size of the dust may affect the health hazard.

Following on from previous work, we conducted characterization analysis on the MLA, another type of scanning electron microscope (SEM) energy dispersive spectra (EDS) X-ray mineral identification. This paper aims to demonstrate the validity of the MLA for analyzing airborne particulate samples taken of the respirable fraction of dust from underground coal mines in Australia.

Join us as we delve deeper into the importance of understanding coal mine dust characterisation and the capabilities of the MLA analysis.


  • LaBranche, N., Cliff, D., Johnstone, K. & Bofinger, C. Respirable Coal Dust and Silica Exposure Standards in Coal Mining: Science or Black Magic?  Resource Operators Conference 2021, 10-12 February 2021 2021 University of Southern Queensland. University of Wollongong - Mining Engineering, 251-260.
  • LaBranche, N., Keles, C., Sarver, E., Johnstone, K. & Cliff, D. 2021. Characterization of Particulates from Australian Underground Coal Mines. Minerals, 11. Published 23 April 2021.
  • LaBranche, N., Teale, K., Wightman, E., Johnstone, K., & Cliff, D. (2022). Characterization Analysis of Airborne Particulates from Australian Underground Coal Mines using the Mineral Liberation Analyser. Minerals, 12(7), 796.

This project sits within the MISHC Dust and Respiratory Health Program.