'XRD' is the new buzz word in the CSIR mining research group's corridors. This new piece of equipment, also known as the Bruker D8 Advance, is an advanced X-ray diffractometer that promises to speed up and improve the quality of the CSIR's laboratory analysis of silica dust.
The XRD is an X-ray diffractometer that can facilitate more than 10 000 possible combinations of different X-ray sources, optics, sample stages and detectors
"Respirable silica is a serious health concern in the gold mining industry," says researcher Cecilia Pretorius. "Exposure to silica dust causes silicosis, a deadly lung disease, which is a major concern for the South African mining industry." The XRD can analyse the phases or crystal forms of a material to determine the substances that are present in a specific sample. In mining it is used to determine what proportion of a dust sample consists of quartz. "It is the quartz component of the silica dust that is the culprit," says Pretorius.
The Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) appointed the CSIR for two projects concerning the ultimate mitigation of respirable silica dust. "The projects are part of a national initiative that jointly set targets for the elimination of silicosis in South African mines by 2013," Pretorius explains.
In 2005, the MHSC appointed the CSIR for a five-year project to research the containment/ elimination of silicosis. "While research on dust exposure and control has been conducted for decades, the containment of silica particles have not yet been researched properly," according to CSIR occupational hygienist and research coordinator, Tania van Dyk. "In addition, awareness about dust exposure and health effects is one of the priority areas for the MHSC silicosis control programme. Close collaboration is required with the dust measurement and dust control projects on silicosis elimination," she says. The project consists of three parts, namely dust measurement and reporting, environmental engineering/dust control, and human resources training and management.
The second MHSC project will determine a baseline for silica dust in the industry to establish the levels of dust present in mines and to monitor the implementation of control techniques.
The CSIR has acquired the latest version of the D8 Advance to ensure improved efficiency.