Ideas generated around Event: GCRF Mine Dust and Health Workshop
For the discussion about exactly what monitoring and measuring entails one needs to investigate purpose – Why do we monitor and measure and What is the end goal? Monitoring and measuring is often liked with health impacts, which is deemed to be inappropriate. However, if not for health impacts why do we monitor and measure? Whether it is for compliance or management or for decent air quality, this is a discussion that needs much more time.
There are better affordable options than the dust bucket: we have very expensive equipment in the national network as well as increasingly cheaper home monitoring systems, and instruments in-between the two. The appropriate distribution of the measurement instrumentation should also be looked into. Modelling of dust fall-out is also very important and the data that is available should be used in effective ways, such as to inform legislation and the distribution of measurement instruments.
However, changing this metric introduces another level of complexity. Furthermore, it is difficult to do analysis on the composition and the effects of composition before we have worked out a practical way to sample and measure dust. Appropriate skills another key factor. There are doubts as to whether the measuring stations are accurately calibrated or properly maintained, as well as whether the people interpreting the data and maintaining the stations have adequate training. Finally, the national measuring networks are being degraded. While this is a problem, it opens up the opportunity for the implementation of creative and appropriate solutions.
While this will not provide an absolute measurement of PSD, having a network of sensors will provide a wide distribution of monitoring. There are also more advanced and expensive devices that can generate more extensive and detailed data that cab used for exposure and health studies. Some of these devices are real time instruments that can be operated via a cell phone application. These devices read PM10 and 2,5 levels and show direct exposure in given areas. There are also opportunities to mine big data bases by collaborating with industry that have data that they monitor on site or by combing ‘big data’ from the different domains (environmental and health). There is lots of fragmented data available that can be harnessed.
Another concern was that the air quality strategies on mine sites were inadequate in contrast to other monitoring strategies and systems (such as water monitoring systems). There are also frustrations around industrial and residential planning, in which as environments change the regulatory requirements change, creating tension between industries and home owners/estates. Furthermore, in some cases legislation can work against monitoring strategies. Finally, while there is lots of data available, there are inevitable gaps in the data. This could be because we do not have instruments that are sensitive enough to give us the data that we need, and thus are they sufficient to measure harm.