Scientists from halfway around the world have sent a compelling message to the Port Hedland community: “we can fix your dust problem”.
Canada’s NTI Nanotechnology Corporation is so sure it can solve Port Hedland’s dust problem, it is prepared to pay for one-third of a trial to prove it.
It was the organisation’s first trip to Australia last week when company chief executive Andres Voskuil flew to Perth and Port Hedland to meet with Main Roads, Hatch Engineering, the Department of Mines and Petroleum and the Pilbara Ports Authority and speak with the Town of Port Hedland.
The company will make a pitch to the State Government and major mining companies in coming weeks to pay for one-third of the cost of a $100,000 pilot project to investigate whether its soil nanotechnology method can solve the Pilbara’s dust issue.
Mr Voskuil said nanotechnology — the study and application of very small things — was used to solve dust issues by mixing nano-particles of iron and zinc together to “weigh” down the dust.
“The iron particles are so small that they attach themselves to normal soil, and the weight holds it (the dust) down,” he said.
Whether the technology could be applied in Port Hedland would depend on a number of factors, including the surface area and type of soil.
“From what I have been told, the issues in Port Hedland are of astronomical size, much bigger than other places,” Mr Voskuil said.
“Even though our technology might work, it might be too big of an issue that even we can’t tackle it (on that scale). We are going to take some samples with us to see (if) we can use our technology to make the bindings to hold this fine dust down.”
Mr Voskuil’s trip to Perth and Port Hedland was co-ordinated by leader of the Julie Matheson for WA Inc. party, Subiaco resident Julie Matheson.
Mr Voskuild said the “next step” was to launch a $100,000 pilot trial — funded by NTI Nanotechnology Corporation, the State Government and mining companies.
“I would propose that we do a pilot test on the worst part, a stockpile or some area where it is evident the dust issue is the worst,” he said.
“We would engineer and design a commercial pilot test... I am willing to invest one-third of our money to see if we can resolve it,” he said.
The nano-particles of iron and zinc are applied as a spray, which Mr Voskuil said ideally required three applications.
“It lasts for as long as the weather will last ... any dust control solution will have the same issues; if it rains a lot it will last a lot shorter term but the second time is easier, the third time is easier,” he said.
While in Perth, Port Hedland Community Progress Association president Jan Ford said another co-operative solution was needed.
“Industry is incredibly proactive, but they can’t get together to find a solution (to the dust) because of the red tape,” she said.