Even though U.S. coal operators could benefit from the use of a new rock dusting product, regulators refuse to acknowledge the results

by steve fiscor, editor

For more than 100 years now, underground coal operators have spread rock dust to prevent dust explosions in coal mines. After a series of explosions killed hundreds of miners in the early 1900s, researchers began to look for a way to reduce the explosive nature of coal dust underground. The idea was to place enough limestone on the floor, roof and rib, so that in the event of an ignition, the dust cloud kicked up by the fireball would be incapable of propagating an explosion because of the inert limestone.

Over time, acceptance and regulation led to today’s practice of rock dusting underground. It has helped to greatly reduce the number and severity of coal dust explosions, but most would agree there is room for improvement. Traditional dry dusting leads to hours of downtime. The application process is inconsistent and much of the rock dust ends up on the floor rather than the roof and ribs.
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