An exploratory characterisation of the carbon and stable isotope composition of atmospheric particulate matter from opencast coal mining activities and adjacent communities

Keywords: Atmospheric PM, characterisation, coal, sampling, opencast, communities, elemental carbon, organic carbon, IRMS, thermal-optical


Standard source apportionment techniques for atmospheric particulate (PM) collected near opencast coal mines provide less accurate results, as the inorganic mineral components in the overburden and at adjacent residential locations are similar. This study explores the use of the stable carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) isotope ratios (13C/12C and 15N/14N) and thermal optical methods to differentiate sources of carbonaceous material in the atmospheric PM samples from the opencast coal mines and adjacent communities.  Both techniques allow a clear distinction between atmospheric PM samples from the opencast coal mines and communities to be made, although distinguishing between the contributions of coal combustion, liquid fuel combustion and the domestic use of biomass for requires further analysis.

Author Biography

Gerrit Kornelius, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Extraordinary senior lecturer

Department of Chemical Engineering

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Technical Article