A fast and effective mobile dust suppression solution for quarrying has emerged from the thoughtful collaboration of two local companies. Nickolas Zakharia reports.
If you step into a quarry on a windy day, it can sometimes feel like you have walked into a Saharan Desert dust storm.
While dust storms are just facets of nature, there is a more natural way to mitigate the risk of dust to quarry operations, workers and the surrounding environment.
Jason MacDonald, the crushing and screening product manager for Australian earthmoving and crushing solutions distributor Onetrak, has spent the best part of a decade searching the market for a high quality and cost-effective mobile dust suppression solution.
Working with quarry contractors, MacDonald, who has worked in the extractive industry for more than three decades, required something that would save both time and money, while being easy enough to install and pack up when moving from site to site.
Above all, the solution needed to stop dust in its tracks without using excessive amounts of water – even on windy days.
Australia’s quarries know all about the importance of dust control for both worker health and the surrounding environment. The latter can especially be a nuisance if a quarry is operating near a highly populated area.
It wasn’t until MacDonald came across Polo Citrus Australia that he was able to deliver a mobile dust suppression solution that ticked all the boxes.
According to MacDonald, the Polo Citrus mobile dust suppression system boosts efficiency, is easy to operate and can be set up from the trailer in just 30 minutes.
“Prior to using Polo Citrus, we had tried almost everything else known for dust suppression in a mobile crushing environment,” MacDonald told Quarry.
“When you’re a mobile contractor, you don’t have the screen box houses to control the dust and their extraction units and bag units.
“We tried fog and it was really good until the wind picked up. As soon as the wind picked up, the fog and the dust blew off.
“We tried making some of our own structures on the screens to control it, we tried mixing an additive with water in the tank to suppress it a bit better. We used all sorts of stuff to try and get it to work.”
Polo Citrus is committed to reducing dust emissions and its exposure with a wide range of products have established the company over the past 25 years as a key supplier to the quarrying, extractive and mining industries, both locally and internationally. It offers turnkey products for individual sites, incorporating the tried and tested Polo BDS solution,
a biodegradable dust suppression agent that uses foam micro-bubbles which can capture airborne particles after being mixed with water. This dust suppressant is also used in its fixed plant dust suppression units in Australia and internationally.
Working with MacDonald at Onetrak, Polo Citrus has since broadened its offerings to mobile dust suppression units.
These units are available directly from Polo Citrus but are also offered by Argo Extractive Solutions, which supplies the trailers the dust suppression units are fitted to.
“For us it was about taking our current dust suppression system and making it portable. That was the ultimate aim,” Polo Citrus’s managing director Brett Aisen told Quarry.
The company worked with MacDonald to deliver a mobile dust suppression unit that fitted his requirements.
Aisen said it wasn’t the first time Polo Citrus had created a portable dust suppression unit, but the vision for an optimal mobile unit wasn’t achieved until he worked with MacDonald.
“For many years, we had the idea of a mobile dust suppression system,” he said. “We actually had built two different types of dust suppression systems over the last 10 years, both with varying success.
“It was about taking our current dust suppression system and making it portable.
“Jason started talking to us about a mobile dust suppression system, and our ears perked up because we knew we’d done it before but we hadn’t really done it in any way that we really liked.”
Aisen and MacDonald worked together to create a user-friendly mobile dust suppressor that was a truly “on wheels” solution.
The idea involved creating a dust suppression system that was capable of saving significant water usage while being transportable from site to site on a trailer.
While designed for mobile usage in mind, Aisen said the unit included was the same as Polo Citrus’ fixed plant alternative.
“The unit that we put on our fixed plant is the unit we put onto our mobile system,” he said.
“You get the same system and set-up. But there’s no doubt that the target market is mobile plant because they want to make things easily moveable.
“There’s no reason why someone couldn’t park one of these next to a fixed plant and go for it.”
Each mobile dust suppression unit holds 1000 litres of the Polo BDS solution. The trailer it is built on is fitted with a compressor and has the option of on-board power for a completely self-contained unit.
“On average, we use two to four litres of solution an hour, so we get 500 to 550 hours of use out of one tank in theory,” MacDonald said.
The Polo Citrus unit can also be turned on or off with the included remote control to prevent water and solution wastage.
“It helps reduce that risk of people having to leave the cab and giving that flexibility of turning it on or off as needed,” MacDonald said.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
MacDonald said the Polo Citrus mobile dust suppression unit solved a number of issues that other dust mitigation solutions could not, including the ability to reduce his reliance on limited water supplies from quarries.
“The biggest issue we used to come across in quarries was a clean water supply and getting water on time, because quite often as a mobile contractor, you’re not working down where the fixed plant is,” he said.
“You’re up on top of the hills somewhere where you’re more exposed to the wind and there’s no water supply. We were always at the mercy of the quarry for whom we were working to supply the water.
“We didn’t have to use 40,000 litres of water a day anymore. If the quarry could supply us with 6000 litres of water a day, we could go all day.”
A reduction in downtime and an increase in production has now been achieved by MacDonald since adopting the Polo
“Once we switched to using Polo Citrus, all those issues went away,” he said.
“We basically had a dry process where we didn’t have blinded mesh, we weren’t having guys needing to clean screen mesh every few hours, and we weren’t losing production at a lot of the sites.
“I’m looking at it from the perspective of what it was saving us in downtime and an increase in production.”
An earlier mobile dust suppression unit using Polo Citrus BDS that was previously adopted by MacDonald proved to be quite cumbersome, compared with the new Polo Citrus mobile trailer.
“We used it in a mobile application about 10 years ago at a previous business we had where everything was on skid-mounted units to move around the countryside,” he said.
“It wasn’t easily portable. You needed lifting gear on site to put it on a semi-trailer. This thing was six or seven metres long with a hook lift on it, just a big skid-mounted unit.
“But the new Polo Citrus system can be moved around behind a ute without the inconvenience and expense of having a skid-mounted unit.”
Aisen also emphasised that the unit has a significant value proposition beyond its sole purpose of dust prevention.
“We can stop dust but it has a lot of benefits as well apart from just stopping dust,” Aisen said. “There are serious, significant costs from lost production caused by dust.”
On top of increased uptime, the Polo Citrus unit has improved overall site safety for MacDonald, while eradicating excess water issues that he has previously experienced with other types of dust suppression.
“Going to the Polo Citrus unit, the operators were working in a much cleaner and safer environment,” he said.
“It’s knocking down 95 per cent of dust. So now the loader drivers can see the truck drivers coming into the area and everything isn’t lost in a haze of dust.
“You’ve got more production, less downtime which means a better bottom line for the operator who’s not going to have to repair a dusted engine or have somebody injured in the middle of a dust storm.”
With a cleaner environment on the cards, the surrounding community and environment has also been less affected.
“We weren’t causing a desert storm across the community and covering trees and plants and everything else in dust, nothing was getting away to the creeks,” MacDonald said.
“On one particular site in southeast Queensland, every day around lunch time, the neighbour – who was a barrister – would ring up and complain every single day about the dust and shut us down.
“Once we put the Polo Citrus solution there, we were able to crush five days a week with no problem – including right next to the M1 Highway doing council concrete. We didn’t have any more issues after that.”
While the Polo Citrus units are designed for mobile use, they can also be set up as a fixed plant alternative if required.
“The unit that we put on our fixed plant is the unit we put onto our mobile system,” Aisen said.
“You get the same system and set-up – but there’s no doubt that the target market is mobile plant because they want to make things easily moveable.
“There’s no reason why someone couldn’t park one of these next to a fixed plant and go for it.”
Through Onetrak, MacDonald has commissioned the Polo Citrus mobile dust suppression units at quarry sites in Melbourne and Wollongong.
MacDonald said it had given some contractors he works with such an advantage that they wished to remain anonymous.
“All I can say is that it’s being used by one of Victoria’s biggest civil contractors,” he said.
They said ‘we don’t want to let the cat out of the bag because it’s given us a massive advantage over the competition and that we don’t want anyone else to know about it’.
“His words to me were ‘this time last year we’d be shut down for weeks at a time and at the moment we’re still crushing while a lot of the competition are shut down during those windy days because they haven’t got their dust under control’.
“It’s bittersweet because it is working really well, but he doesn’t want to be put on paper as a reference point because it is working so well.”
MacDonald’s appreciation of the Polo Citrus dust suppression unit has extended to his wife, Debbie MacDonald, who owns Argo Extractive Solutions.
Argo builds on the decades of experience Debbie and her husband have in the quarrying industry.
The company aims to provide safe and responsible dust management solutions to its customers, avoiding the health risks associated with harmful dust particles such as silica.
Dust management in the resources sector has been a key focus of various state and territory governments in the past 12 months, resulting in a reduction of the Workplace Exposure Standard for silica dust from an exposure rate of 1mg/m³ to 0.05mg/m³.
The Polo Citrus dust suppression unit can better maintain a safer exposure rate, which is part of what led Debbie MacDonald to seek out the product.
“I built Argo up from this dust suppression trailer, that’s what we’re all about,” she told Quarry.
“The reasoning behind Argo is to provide equipment and assistance to the extractive industry, especially in a mobile application.”
As a result, Argo partnered with Polo Citrus to assemble the trailers for the mobile dust suppression units going forward.
Aisen agreed Argo had become vital in assisting its mobile dust suppression solutions.
“We’re good at servicing the needs of our customers worldwide who buy our dust suppressors,” he said. “We’re not so good at building trailers and assembling things and as much as we could resource up for it, the relationship with Argo is a really good strong relationship.
“Debbie is really passionate about mobile crushing and we have the equipment that can help her do that. That’s why we have structured this distribution relationship where Debbie will be our go-to for trailers.”