Scholarly Works, Mining and Minerals Engineering

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Research articles, presentations, and other scholarship


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  • The Elk River MCHM spill: A case study on managing environmental risks
    Scaggs, Meredith; Sarver, Emily A.; Mendoza, Lucas Rojas (Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, 2015-04)
    On January 9, 2014, a large chemical spill occurred on the bank of the Elk River near Charleston, WV. Within hours, the potable water supply for more than 300,000 people was contaminated, and the incident captured national headlines for weeks. Although the primary chemical, crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or MCHM, is considered nonhazardous, the impacts of the spill are significant – with all stakeholders, including the public, members of industry, and relevant government agencies experiencing losses. More than a year later, this case continues to garner significant attention, with many still questioning just how it could have happened given the complex regulatory system in the US. In retrospect, the Elk River spill highlights the need for a more proactive approach to environmental protection, shifting from prescriptive regulation to comprehensive risk management. The lessons learned are particularly important for “gray” areas within regulatory framework, such as the vast area of nonhazardous chemicals.
  • Towards Sustainable Development: Conflict Management Practice and Education
    McCullough, Erin; Sarver, Emily A. (Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, 2016-02-22)
    Fostering positive community relations is a principal tenet of sustainable development, but conflict can test even the strongest of relationships. While conflict surrounding resource development projects has the potential to be destructive, it may actually pose opportunities for partnership and collaboration when managed effectively. It is therefore not only important for mineral resource professionals to recognize the financial and social costs associated with legal disputes among project stakeholders, but also for them to prioritize resolving social conflict using alternative channels that allow for win-win outcomes. A variety of dispute prevention and resolution techniques do exist, but successful practice is not yet the norm. Here we review the sources and consequences of social conflict in the context of mining projects, and discuss typical and alternative approaches to conflict management in light of their respective benefits and drawbacks. We also suggest implementation of conflict resolution lessons into resource-related university curricula as a critical step in the continued shift of the mining industry towards sustainable development.
  • Effects of dust controls on respirable coal mine dust composition and particle sizes: case studies on auxiliary scrubbers and canopy air curtain
    Animah, Festus; Keles, Cigdem; Reed, W. R.; Sarver, Emily A. (2024-04-20)
    Control of dust in underground coal mines is critical for mitigating both safety and health hazards. For decades, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has led research to evaluate the effectiveness of various dust control technologies in coal mines. Recent studies have included the evaluation of auxiliary scrubbers to reduce respirable dust downstream of active mining and the use of canopy air curtains (CACs) to reduce respirable dust in key operator positions. While detailed dust characterization was not a focus of such studies, this is a growing area of interest. Using preserved filter samples from three previous NIOSH studies, the current work aims to explore the effect of two different scrubbers (one wet and one dry) and a roof bolter CAC on respirable dust composition and particle size distribution. For this, the preserved filter samples were analyzed by thermogravimetric analysis and/or scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray. Results indicate that dust composition was not appreciably affected by either scrubber or the CAC. However, the wet scrubber and CAC appeared to decrease the overall particle size distribution. Such an effect of the dry scrubber was not consistently observed, but this is probably related to the particular sampling location downstream of the scrubber which allowed for significant mixing of the scrubber exhaust and other return air. Aside from the insights gained with respect to the three specific dust control case studies revisited here, this work demonstrates the value of preserved dust samples for follow-up investigation more broadly.
  • Understanding poromechanical response of a biogenic coalbed methane reservoir
    Pandey, Rohit; Harpalani, Satya (2024-04-17)
    Biogenic coalbed methane (BCBM) reservoirs aim to produce methane from in situ coal deposits following microbial conversion of coal. Success of BCBM reservoirs requires economic methane production within an acceptable timeframe. The work reported here quantifies the findings of previously published qualitative work, where it was found that bioconversion induces strains in the pore, matrix and bulk scales. Using imaging and dynamic strain monitoring techniques, the bioconversion induced strain is quantified here. To understand the effect of these strains from a reservoir geomechanics perspective, a corresponding poromechanical model is developed. Furthermore, findings of imaging experiments are validated using core-flooding flow experiments. Finally, expected field-scale behavior of the permeability response of a BCBM operation is modeled and analyzed. The results of the study indicated that, for Illinois coals, bioconversion induced strains result in a decrease in fracture porosity, resulting in a detrimental permeability drop in excess of 60% during bioconversion, which festers itself exponentially throughout its producing life. Results indicate that reservoirs with high initial permeability that will support higher Darcian flowrates, would be better suited for coal bioconversion, thereby providing a site-selection criteria for BCBM operations.
  • Advancing respirable coal mine dust source apportionment: a preliminary laboratory exploration of optical microscopy as a novel monitoring tool
    Santa, Nestor; Sarver, Emily A. (2024-04-16)
    Exposure to respirable coal mine dust (RCMD) can cause chronic and debilitating lung diseases. Real-time monitoring capabilities are sought which can enable a better understanding of dust components and sources. In many underground mines, RCMD includes three primary components which can be loosely associated with three major dust sources: coal dust from the coal seam itself, silicates from the surrounding rock strata, and carbonates from the inert ‘rock dust’ products that are applied to mitigate explosion hazards. A monitor which can reliably partition RCMD between these three components could thus allow source apportionment. And tracking silicates, specifically, could be valuable since the most serious health risks are typically associated with this component-particularly if abundant in crystalline silica. Envisioning a monitoring concept based on field microscopy, and following up on prior research using polarized light, the aim of the current study was to build and test a model to classify respirable-sized particles as either coal, silicates, or carbonates. For model development, composite dust samples were generated in the laboratory by successively depositing dust from high-purity materials onto a sticky transparent substrate, and imaging after each deposition event such that the identity of each particle was known a priori. Model testing followed a similar approach, except that real geologic materials were used as the source for each dust component. Results showed that the model had an overall accuracy of 86.5%, indicating that a field-microscopy based monitor could support RCMD source apportionment and silicates tracking in some coal mines.
  • Rare Earth Element Recovery and Hydrochar Evaluation from Hyperaccumulator by Acid Leaching and Microwave-Assisted Hydrothermal Carbonization
    Li, Shiyu; Ji, Bin; Zhang, Wencai (MDPI, 2024-03-06)
    Phytomining is a sustainable approach that uses hyperaccumulators for critical element extraction from various substrates, such as contaminated soils, mine tailings, and aqueous solutions. In this study, grass seeds were fed with a solution containing Y, La, Ce, and Dy, resulting in around 510 mg/kg (dry basis) of total rare earth elements (TREEs) accumulated in grass leaves. Electron probe microanalyzer (EPMA) analysis showed that rare earth elements (REEs) in the grass leaves (GL) predominantly complexed with phosphorous (P). Around 95% of Y, 93% of La, 92% of Ce, and 93% of Dy were extracted from the GL using 0.5 mol/L H2SO4 at a solid concentration of 5 wt.%. Subsequently, microwave-assisted hydrothermal carbonization (MHTC) was used to convert the leaching residue into hydrochar to achieve a comprehensive utilization of GL biomass. The effect of temperature on the structural properties and chemical composition of the resulting hydrochar was evaluated. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis revealed that the original structure of GL was destroyed at 180 °C during MHTC, producing numerous microspheres and pores. As the reaction temperature increased, there was a concurrent increase in carbon content, a higher heating value (HHV), and energy densification, coupled with a decrease in the hydrogen and oxygen contents of hydrochar. The evolution of H/C and O/C ratios indicated that dehydration and decarboxylation occurred during MHTC. The results showed that the waste biomass of the GL after REE extraction can be effectively converted into energy-rich solid fuel and low-cost adsorbents via MHTC.
  • Mining Tenure and Job Duties Differ Among Contemporary and Historic Underground Coal Miners With Progressive Massive Fibrosis
    Zell-Baran, Lauren M.; Go, Leonard H. T.; Sarver, Emily A.; Almberg, Kirsten S.; Iwaniuk, Cayla; Green, Francis H. Y.; Abraham, Jerrold L.; Cool, Carlyne; Franko, Angela; Hubbs, Ann F.; Murray, Jill; Orandle, Marlene S.; Sanyal, Soma; Vorajee, Naseema; Cohen, Robert A.; Rose, Cecile S. (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2023-04)
    Objective: To characterize differences in mining jobs and tenure between contemporary (born 1930+, working primarily with modern mining technologies) and historic coal miners with progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). Methods: We classified jobs as designated occupations (DOs) and non-DOs based on regulatory sampling requirements. Demographic, occupational characteristics, and histopathological PMF type were compared between groups. Results: Contemporary miners (n = 33) had significantly shorter mean total ( 30.4 years vs 37.1 years, P = 0.0006) and underground (28.8 years vs 35.8 years, P = 0.001) mining tenure compared with historic miners (n = 289). Silica-type PMF was significantly more common among miners in non-DOs (30.1% vs 15.8%, P = 0.03) and contemporary miners (58.1% vs 15.2%, P < 0.0001). Conclusions: Primary jobs changed over time with the introduction of modern mining technologies and likely changed exposures for workers. Elevated crystalline silica exposures are likely in non-DOs and require attention.
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Forsterite and Magnesite Mechanical Properties: Does Mineral Carbonation Reduce Comminution Energy?
    Talapatra, Akash; Nojabaei, Bahareh (MDPI, 2023-08-09)
    This work compares the mechanical properties of two geomaterials: forsterite and magnesite. Various physical conditions are considered to investigate the evolution of stress–strain relationships for these two polycrystals. A molecular-scale study is performed on three-dimensional models of forsterite and magnesite. Three different temperatures (300 K, 500 K, and 700 K) and strain rates (0.001, 0.01, and 0.05 ps−1) are considered to initiate deformation in the polycrystals under tensile and compressive forces. The polycrystalline structures face deformation at lower peaks at high temperatures. The Young’s modulus values of forsterite and magnesite are found to be approximately 154.7451 GPa and 92.84 GPa under tensile forces and these values are found to be around 120.457 GPa (forsterite) and 77.04 GPa (magnesite) for compressive forces. Increasing temperature reduces the maximum strength of the polycrystalline structures, but forsterite shows higher ductility compared to magnesite. Strain rate sensitivity and the effect of grain size are also studied. The yield strengths of the forsterite and magnesite drop by 7.89% and 9.09% when the grain size is reduced by 20% and 15%, respectively. This study also focuses on the changes in elastic properties for different pressures and temperatures. In addition, from the radial distribution function (RDF) results, it was observed that the peak intensity of pairwise interaction of Si–O is higher than that of Mg–O. Finally, it is found that the formation of magnesite, which is the product of mineral carbonation of forsterite, is favorable in terms of mechanical properties for the comminution process.
  • Data Analyses of Quarry Operations and Maintenance Schedules: A Production Optimization Study
    George, Brennan; Nojabaei, Bahareh (MDPI, 2023-06-15)
    In this research, data analytics and machine learning were used to identify the performance metrics of loaders and haul trucks during mining operations. We used real-time collected data from loaders and haul trucks operating in multiple quarries to broaden the scope of the study and remove bias. Our model indicates relationships between multiple variables and their impacts on production in an operation. Data analysis was also applied to ground engagement tools (GET) to identify key preventative maintenance schedules to minimize production impact from capital equipment downtime. Through analysis of the loader’s data, it was found there is an efficient cycle time of around 35 s to 40 s, which yielded a higher payload. The decision tree classifier algorithm created a model that was 87.99% accurate in estimating the performance of a loader based on a full analysis of the data. Based on the distribution of production variables across each type of loader performing in a similar work environment, the Caterpillar 992K and 990K were the highest-yielding machines. Production efficiency was compared before and after maintenance periods of ground engaging tools on loader buckets. With the use of maintenance and production records for these tools, it was concluded that there was no distinguishable change in average production and percentage change in production value before and after maintenance days.
  • Research on failure mechanism and support technology of fractured rock mass in an undersea gold mine
    Zhao, Xingdong; Zhu, Qiankun; Westman, Erik; Yang, Shanghuan (Taylor & Francis, 2023)
    The surrounding rock control has been a difficult problem for fractured rock mass in hard rock mines. This article describes a case study of the failure mechanisms and the support design technology for fractured rock mass drifts in Xinli Gold Mine. Based on field investigation, the geology characteristics, failure types, influencing factors, support types, and their failure types were analyzed. The rock mass classification, rock mass physical and mechanical parameters were obtained by using Q, RMR, and GSI systems. The zoning of surrounding rock, stability analysis and zoning support schemes design were carried out based on rock mass classification results. The pretension is designed by China underground mine experiences and verified by numerical simulation. RS2 was used to compare the plastic zone under pre- and post-support conditions. The plastic zone is significantly reduced after support is installed, which indicates that the designed support schemes can effectively control the failure of surrounding rock. In view of difficulties in the excavation and support of fractured rock mass, the short excavation and short support technology was proposed to ensure the success excavation of the drift in fractured rock mass. The field application shows that the short excavation and support technology are effective.
  • Pathology and Mineralogy Demonstrate Respirable Crystalline Silica Is a Major Cause of Severe Pneumoconiosis in US Coal Miners
    Cohen, Robert A.; Rose, Cecile S.; Go, Leonard H. T.; Zell-Baran, Lauren M.; Almberg, Kirsten S.; Sarver, Emily A.; Lowers, Heather A.; Iwaniuk, Cayla; Clingerman, Sidney M.; Richardson, Diana L.; Abraham, Jerrold L.; Cool, Carlyne D.; Franko, Angela D.; Hubbs, Ann F.; Murray, Jill; Orandle, Marlene S.; Sanyal, Soma; Vorajee, Naseema, I; Petsonk, Edward L.; Zulfikar, Rafia; Green, Francis H. Y. (American Thoracic Society, 2022-09)
    Rationale: The reasons for resurgent coal workers' pneumoconiosis and its most severe forms, rapidly progressive pneumoconiosis and progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), in the United States are not yet fully understood. Objectives: To compare the pathologic and mineralogic features of contemporary coal miners with severe pneumoconiosis with those of their historical counterparts. Methods: Lung pathology specimens from 85 coal miners with PMF were included for evaluation and analysis. We compared the proportion of cases with pathologic and mineralogic findings in miners born between 1910 and 1930 (historical) with those in miners born in or after 1930 (contemporary). Results: We found a significantly higher proportion of silica-type PMF (57% vs. 18%; P < 0.001) among contemporary miners compared with their historical counterparts. Mineral dust alveolar proteinosis was also more common in contemporary miners compared with their historical counterparts (70% vs. 37%; P < 0.01). In situ mineralogic analysis showed that the percentage (26.1% vs. 17.8%; P < 0.01) and concentration (47.3310(8) vs. 25.8310(8) particles/cm(3); P = 0.036) of silica particles were significantly greater in specimens from contemporary miners compared with their historical counterparts. The concentration of silica particles was significantly greater when silica-type PMF, mineral dust alveolar proteinosis, silicotic nodules, or immature silicotic nodules were present (P < 0.05). Conclusions: Exposure to respirable crystalline silica appears causal in the unexpected surge of severe disease in contemporary miners. Our findings underscore the importance of controlling workplace silica exposure to prevent the disabling and untreatable adverse health effects afflicting U.S. coal miners.
  • A Study of Respirable Silica in Underground Coal Mines: Particle Characteristics
    Keles, Cigdem; Sarver, Emily A. (MDPI, 2022-12-01)
    Respirable crystalline silica is now considered to be a major culprit of resurgent lung disease among US coal miners—especially in central Appalachia—though questions remain regarding the specific circumstances around exposure to it. As part of a larger investigation of dust in 15 US coal mines, a recent study examined the silica content in both the respirable mine dust samples and the samples of respirable dust generated in the laboratory from primary source materials (i.e., coal and rock strata and rock dusting products). It concluded the rock strata that is being drilled for roof bolting or is being cut along with the coal is the most significant source of respirable silica in many mines, which is consistent with the expectations based on other scattered datasets. However, little information is available on the characteristics of respirable silica particles which might be important for understanding the exposure risks better. In the current study, which represents another part of the aforementioned investigation in 15 mines, scanning electron microcopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM–EDX) were used to analyze the size and surface condition (i.e., degree of surface-associated clay) of 1685 silica particles identified in 58 respirable mine dust samples. The results indicated that silica is typically finer in locations nearby to drilling and cutting activities than it is in other locations within a mine, but the silica in the Central Appalachian mines is not necessarily finer than it is in the mines in other regions. An analysis of the particle surfaces revealed that respirable silica in coal mines often does not occur as “free”, high-purity particles. Rather, there can be a range of occurrences including silica particles having a thin “occlusion” layer of clay, silica within agglomerates that can also contain other particle types including clays, or even silica ingrained within other particles such as coal.
  • Recovery of Rare Earth Element from Acid Mine Drainage Using Organo-Phosphorus Extractants and Ionic Liquids
    Larochelle, Tommee; Noble, Aaron; Strickland, Kris; Ahn, Allie; Ziemkiewicz, Paul; Constant, James; Hoffman, David; Glascock, Caitlin (MDPI, 2022-10-22)
    Acid mine drainage is a legacy environmental issue and one of the largest pollutants in many mining districts throughout the world. In prior work, the authors have developed a process for the recovery of critical materials, including the rare earth elements, from acid mine drainage using a preconcentration step followed by solvent extraction as a concentration and purification technology. As part of the downstream technology development efforts, we have synthesized a suite of ionic liquid extractants that facilitate greater separation factors leading to lower capital costs and reduced environmental impacts. This article provides a comparison of the conventional extractants D2EHPA, EHEHPA and C572 with their respective ionic liquids [c101][D2EHP,c101][EHEHP] and [c101][C572] for the recovery of rare earth elements from acid mine drainage. In the study, laboratory-scale, multi-contact solvent extraction tests were conducted at high and low extractant/dosages. The results show that the ionic liquids varied in performance, with [c101][D2EHP] and [c101][EHEHP] performing poorer than their conventional counterparts and [c101][c572] performing better. Recommendations for further study on [c101][c572] include stripping tests, continuous pilot testing, and techno-economic analysis.
  • Stochastic Continuous Modeling for Pillar Stress Estimation and Comparison with 2D Numerical, and Analytical Solutions in an Underground Stone Mine
    Monsalve, Juan J.; Soni, Aman; Karfakis, Mario; Hazzard, Jim; Ripepi, Nino (Springer, 2022-09)
    Pillar collapses are events that due to their severe consequences can be classified as high risk. The design of pillars in underground room-and-pillar operations should migrate to risk-based design approaches. The authors of this work proposed a risk-based pillar design methodology that integrates stochastic discrete element modeling for pillar strength estimation, and stochastic finite volume modeling (FVM) for stress estimation. This paper focuses on the stochastic FVM component for stress estimation. The mining and geomechanical aspects of a case study mine (CSM) are described and pillar stresses are estimated by using three approaches: (1) analytical solutions, (2) 2D finite element modeling, and (3) 3D finite volume modeling. This operation extracts a 30 degrees dipping deposit, which makes current underground stone mine design guidelines inapplicable for this CSM. This work compares results from each stress estimation approach and discusses uses the point estimate method as a simplified stochastic approach to evaluate the effect of rock mass elastic properties variability on pillar stress distribution. Results from this work show that the three estimation approaches lead to different estimations, possibly, due to the wide range of assumptions each estimation approach considers. It was also determined that the horizontal to vertical stress ratio has a significant impact on pillar stress magnitude. Therefore, it is recommended to perform in situ stress measurements, or assume worst-case-scenario values to account and reduce uncertainty due to this parameter. The stochastic stress estimation approach used in this paper provides results that can integrate a risk-based pillar design framework.
  • Editorial: The Separation and Removal of Inorganic Ions and Organics From Aqueous Solutions
    Bao, Shenxu; Peng, Hong; Rao, Feng; Zhang, Wencai (Frontiers, 2021-11-01)
  • A Fog-and-Tube Scrubber for the Removal of Diesel Particulate Matter from Engine Exhaust
    Tabor, Joseph; Sarver, Emily A.; Saylor, John R. (Taiwan Association of Aerosol Research, 2021-12)
    Diesel particulate matter (DPM), the solid portion of diesel exhaust, has been linked to a range of deleterious health impacts. While a number of control strategies have been effective at reducing DPM in some environments, exposure risks are still high in others such as underground mines. In prior work, a novel scrubber treatment that used fog to remove DPM from engine exhaust was successfully prototyped in bench-scale laboratory experiments. Here, for the first time, the treatment concept was scaled up and field tested in a stone mine. An exhaust blower was used to pull fog, diesel exhaust, and mine air through a 30.5-meter long tube, enabling coagulation of DPM and fog drops resulting in their subsequent removal. Excluding one of the eleven tests, which appeared to be an outlier, the results showed that this fog-and-tube scrubber removed an average of 63% of particles (11.5-154 nm) as compared to 18% in the control case (without fog), yielding an average improvement of 45%. Computer simulations suggest that the observed particle removal is predominantly due to rapid thermal coagulation between the DPM and fog drops, followed by removal of the DPM-laden drops via inertial impaction with the tube walls.
  • Underground Rock Mass Behavior Prior to the Occurrence of Mining Induced Seismic Events
    Ghaychi Afrouz, Setareh; Westman, Erik; Dehn, Kathryn; Weston, Ben (MDPI, 2022-09-05)
    The variations of seismic velocity prior to the occurrence of major seismic events are an indicator of the rock mass performance subjected to mining-induced stress. There have been no prior field-scale studies to examine stress change within the rockmass volume immediately prior to potentially damaging mining-induced seismicity. Monitoring stress change is critical for mine stability and operation safety and eventually improves production by optimizing mine designs and mining practices. In this study, five major seismic events that occurred in a narrow-vein mine were used as case studies in order to investigate any significant changes in P-wave velocity distribution, on a daily basis, within a week of seismic events with Mw > 1; if observed, such changes could provide a warning to mine engineers and workers. It was observed there was no consistent significant velocity change of more than 1% within 200 m of the hypocenters within 6 days prior to the events. Additionally, the influence of blasting in the week of the occurrence of events was investigated however no recognizable trend was observed between blasting and changes in the seismic velocity distribution within the rock mass on the day of a blast or the following day.
  • A Study of Respirable Silica in Underground Coal Mines: Sources
    Keles, Cigdem; Pokhrel, Nishan; Sarver, Emily A. (MDPI, 2022-08-31)
    An ongoing resurgence of occupational lung disease among coal miners in the United States has been linked to respirable crystalline silica (RCS). To better protect miners, a deeper understanding of key exposure factors is needed. As part of a larger investigation of RCS in 15 coal mines, this paper describes analysis of silica mass content in two types of samples: (1) respirable coal mine dust (RCMD) collected in standardized locations in each mine; and (2) respirable dust generated in the laboratory from primary source materials, including coal and rock strata being mined at the production face, material obtained from the dust collection system on roof bolter machines, and rock dust products being applied by the mine. As expected, results indicate that rock strata drilled for roof bolting or being extracted along with the coal are a major source of RCS in many coal mines—although the coal seam itself can contain significant silica in some mines. While silica content of rock strata encountered in central Appalachian mines is not necessarily higher than in other regions, the sheer abundance of rock being extracted in thin-seam central Appalachian mines can explain the relatively higher silica content typically observed in RCMD from this region.
  • Comparison of respirable coal mine dust constituents estimated using FTIR, TGA, and SEM-EDX
    Pokhrel, Nishan; Agioutanti, el E.; Keles, Cigdem; Afrouz, Setareh; Sarver, Emily A. (Springer, 2022-02-24)
    Since the mid-1990s, there has been a resurgence of severe lung disease among US coal miners. This has prompted efforts to better characterize and monitor respirable dust exposures—especially with respect to mineral constituents sourced from rock strata surrounding the coal, which is believed to play a central role in many cases of disease. Recently, a rapid analysis method for silica (quartz) mass has been developed using direct-on-filter Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. It can concurrently provide an estimate of kaolinite, presumably a primary silicate mineral in many coal mines. Other methods, including thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray (SEM–EDX), can also be used to estimate respirable coal mine dust constituents. However, there have been few efforts to compare results across multiple methods. Here, FTIR, TGA, and SEM–EDX were used to analyze 93 sets of respirable dust samples collected in 16 underground coal mines across the USA.
  • On the occurrence and persistence of coal-mineral microagglomerates in respirable coal mine dust
    Gonzalez, Jonathan; Keles, Cigdem; Sarver, Emily A. (Springer, 2022-02-10)
    A previous effort to characterize respirable coal mine dust in 16 US mines turned up a curious finding: particle-based analysis using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) tended to overpredict the abundance of dust sourced from rock strata, and underpredict the abundance of coal, when compared to mass-based thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). One possible explanation is the occurrence of coal-mineral microagglomerates (MAGs). Coal particles covered with fine mineral dust could be mostly coal by mass but classified as minerals by SEM due to their surface elemental content. In the current study, a subset of the previously analyzed mine dust samples was re-examined, and SEM images and elemental mapping showed that MAGs are indeed present. Furthermore, dust samples were created and sampled passively in the laboratory, demonstrating that MAG formation can occur due to dust generation processes and the sampling environment, rather than as a mere artifact of respirable dust sampling procedures. Finally, experiments were conducted to evaluate dispersibility of MAGs in liquid suspensions, which might shed some light on their possible fate upon inhalation. Results indicated that sonication in deionized water was effective for MAG dispersion, and a solution that mimics natural lung surfactant also appeared to enhance dispersibility. An understanding of MAG occurrence might be important in terms of exposure assessment.