The realities of coal mining and the road to sustainability

Coal mining occurs in every state in Australia, mainly in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria. Between 2005 and 2010, coal production in the country increased to 13.6%. In 2016, the biggest net export of coal came from Australia. One of the coal mines in Australia is the Kestrel Coal mine that is located in the Bowen Basin at Crinum. The underground coal mine is one of the largest reserves of cooking coal in Asia and the world. Every year, it produces four million tonnes of coal.

 

kestrel coal

Despite the bad reputation of coal, it does have its benefits.

Coal has many important uses, especially in producing steel, generating electricity, manufacturing cement where coal is used as a liquid fuel. It’s also used in manufacturing paper, in aluminium refineries, and in pharmaceutical and chemical products.

It’s also used in specialist products, such as activated carbon, carbon fibre, and silicon metal.

This makes the Kestrel Coal mine vital to industrialisation and various sectors.

By-products of coal have many applications as well.

Refined coal tar, for example, is used to manufacture different chemicals:

  • Creosote oil
  • Naphthalene
  • Phenol
  • Benzene

Ammonia gas, on the other hand, is used to manufacture:

  • Ammonia salts
  • Nitric acid
  • Agricultural fertilisers

Clearly, coal matters. Unfortunately, it has several negative impacts, a reality of Kestrel coal mine other mining locations.

On natural habitats

The biggest impact of coal is on the environment. Coal mining in the Kestrel Coal mine or other mining areas has the potential to pollute groundwater tables and, to accommodate the operation, trees would have to be removed to clear the way. This results in flooding too. A mine is also at high risk of fires.

While some by-products of coal are useful, others, such as arsenic, mercury, selenium, and sulphur dioxide, are hazardous.

On human health and safety

Concentrated carbon dioxide has deadly consequences when inhaled, but the possibility is high because the gas is piped out of a plant and then kept in storage technology. There’s no easy way to keep the fumes from escaping.

Coal dust is one of the environmental toxins that are lethal to humans. When inhaled, it can cause Black Lung Disease that makes it difficult to breathe, cause tightness in the chest, and results in a cough that may or may not come with black sputum.

Considered a work-related illness, it affects mostly coal miners. What’s lethal about it is that it takes years or decades for Black Lung Disease to develop. This is why most people diagnosed with it are aged 50 and above.

Coal also produces radiation.

But, steps are being taken to integrate sustainability in coal mining.

Sustainability and coal mining

In a 2001 research paper entitled Sustainable Development and the Australian Minerals Sector, one of the philosophies and initiatives introduced is Sustainable Production and Consumption that recommends several actions that involved parties can undertake.

  • Environmental criteria and processes
  • Eco-labelling
  • More efficient design of products and processes
  • Green public procurement policies
  • Reuse and recycle

Some mining companies have also taken steps to ensure sustainability.

Kestrel Coal Resources, for example, is working to ensure sustainability in health and safety, environment, and community.

One of their core values is the belief in “a safe workplace for everyone, every day.” If Kestrel Coal Resources can do it, so can other mining companies.