On 12 June 2012 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) based on sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.
Diesel-powered equipment is used in both surface and underground mining operations. The tailpipe emissions from these engines contain gases including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides. In addition, un-burnt fuel particulates absorb a number of hydrocarbon vapours present in the fuel mixture. These particulates are collectively known as diesel particulate matter, or DPM.
In the absence of a personal exposure limit or legally binding tailpipe emission standards for DPM in South Africa, the Chamber of Mines submitted a position paper to the Mining Occupational Health Advisory Committee recommending the implementation of a phased-in occupational exposure limit for DPM.
Personal exposure to DPM has been measured since 2010 at Lonmin’s mechanised mines, and a steering committee has been established to investigate and implement measures to reduce the amount of DPM from the exhaust systems of the diesel machinery the Company uses in its mining.