Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Mining Engineering (MSMIE)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Mining Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Braden T. Lusk


Emerging health concern for gaseous nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted during surface mine blasting has prompted mining authorities in the United States to pursue new regulations. NOx is comprised of various binary compounds of nitrogen and oxygen. Nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are the most prominent. Modern explosive formulations are not designed to produce NOx during properly-sustained detonations, and researchers have identified several causes through laboratory experiments; however, direct sampling of NOx following full-scale surface mine blasting has not been accomplished.

The purpose of this thesis was to demonstrate a safe, innovative method of directly quantifying NOx concentrations in a full-scale surface mining environment. A small unmanned aircraft system was used with a continuous gas monitor to sample concentrated fumes. Three flights were completed – two in the Powder River Basin. Results from a moderate NOx emission showed peak NO and NO2 concentrations of 257 ppm and 67.2 ppm, respectively. The estimated NO2 presence following a severe NOx emission was 137.3 ppm. Dispersion of the gases occurred over short distances, and novel geometric models were developed to describe emission characteristics. Overall, the direct sampling method was successful, and the data collected are new to the body of scientific knowledge.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)