Respirable Coal Mine Dust in the Vicinity of a Roof Bolter: an Inter-laboratory Study to Compare Wet Versus Dry Dust Collection Systems

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Chemical Engineering


Among underground coal miners, roof bolter operators are generally considered to have some of the highest risks for hazardous respirable dust exposure. This is because bolting requires drilling into roof strata that can often be a source of silica and silicate dust, which are associated with occupational lung diseases. However, little is known about the variability of dust characteristics (e.g., mineralogy constituents, particle size) in the vicinity of the bolter—or when specific dust controls are applied. As part of a prior NIOSH study, respirable dust samples were collected during several different events in standardized locations around an active roof bolter, and personal samples were also collected from the operator during the cleanout of the bolter’s dust collection system when it was equipped with a novel wet dust box versus a traditional dry box. Those samples were made available for follow-up analysis by scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM–EDX), as well as direct-on-filter Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Results showed variability in dust constituents and particle sizes at locations around the roof bolter, and indicated some event-to-event differences in dust sources. Additionally, compared to the dry dust box, the wet dust box appeared to reduce (by 41–82%) the relative silica and silicate content in the respirable dust to which the operator was exposed during cleanout. Furthermore, an inter-laboratory comparison demonstrated the reproducibility of a standardized direct-on-filter FTIR method for estimating quartz mass (i.e., the predominant form of crystalline silica) in respirable coal mine dust samples. However, for constituent analysis by SEM–EDX, differences observed between results from two independent labs indicate that standardization of the analytical protocol is necessary to enable comparability of results.

Publication Title

Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration