Coal seam water infusion for dust control: a technical review
Coal mine dust continues to be a health and safety issue in underground coal mines. Coal seam water infusion was developed and widely applied in European coal mines for dust control, and was also a common practice in most Chinese coal mines. This method typically involves the infusion of water into the coal seam to increase its moisture content, and therefore reduce dust generation during mining operations. With the availability of other dust control methods such as water spraying systems, the water infusion method has not been considered as a viable means for dust mitigation in modern mines. However, the increase in production output and the deployment of more powerful equipment for coal cutting and transport and intensive gas drainage practices mean that workers could be exposed to more dust contaminations. Whilst the mine operators are committed to suppress and dilute airborne dust particles using these passive measures, there is a need to critically examine and subsequently develop this proactive dust control technology for practical applications in Chinese coal mines. The paper provides a critical review of the water infusion technologies in view of its technological advances and practical application limitations. The methods of water infusion, mechanism of water flow in coal, the role of surfactants and the key parameters influencing the effect of water infusion on dust control are identified and discussed. Existing problems and prospects for water infusion are analysed.