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ISSN : 1225-4517(Print)
ISSN : 2287-3503(Online)
Journal of Environmental Science International Vol.26 No.9 pp.1013-1021

A Case Study of Exposure to Elemental Carbon (EC) in an Underground Copper Ore Mine

Su-Gil Lee, Jung-Hee Kim, Seong-Soo Kim


Exposure to Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) potentially causes adverse health effects (e.g. respiratory symptoms, lung cancer). Due to a lack of data on Elemental Carbon (EC) exposure levels in underground copper ore mining (unlike other underground mining industries such as non-metallic and coal mining), this case study aims to provide individual miners’ EC exposure levels, and information on their work practices including use of personal protective equipment. EC measurement was carried out during different work activities (i.e. drilling, driving a loader, plant fitting, plant operation, driving a Specialized Mining Vehicle (SMV)) as per NIOSH Method 5040. The copper miners were working 10 h/day and 5 days/week. This study found that the most significant exposures to EC were reported from driving a loader (range 0.02-0.42 mg/m3). Even though there were control systems (i.e. water tanks and DPM filters) on the diesel vehicles, around 49.5% of the results were over the adjusted recommendable exposure limit (0.078 mg/m3). This was probably due to: (1) driver’s frequently getting in and out of the diesel vehicles and opening the windows of the diesel vehicles, and (2) inappropriate maintenance of the diesel vehicles and the DPM control systems. The use of the P2 type respirator provided was less than 19.2%. However, there was no significant difference between the day shift results and the night shift results. In order to prevent or minimize exposure to EC in the copper ore mine, it is recommended that the miners are educated in the need to wear the appropriate respirator provided during their work shifts, and to maintain the diesel engine and emission control systems on a regular basis. Consideration should be given to a specific examination of the diesel vehicles’ air-conditioning filters and the air ventilation system to control excessive airborne contaminants in the underground copper mine.