Safety Considerations When Blasting Off The Solid In Underground Fiery Coal Mines

Landman, G. V. R.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
In the early days of underground coal mining, the use of explosives to break coal resulted in a large number of disastrous methane and coal dust explosions and consequential loss of life. Research by the British, French, US authorities, amongst others, introduced many practices that significantly reduced the occurrence of such incidences. The use of explosives designed to be safe in a methane atmosphere, plus the creation of a second free face were two such practices which became commonly used in coal mines all over the world including southern Africa. With its associated coal cutting equipment and labour, the cost of creating a second free face is significant and this, together with the constant drive to reduce mining costs in a competitive market, causes mine management to regularly question the need for the second free face. Also, the safety and nature of permitted explosives has changed considerably since the days of black powder and nitroglycerine-based explosives with the introduction of water-based explosives. In southern Africa mining regulations pertaining to the blasting of coal has its origins in British research which was largely done in the first half of the twentieth century. More recent research by the US Bureau of Mine has resulted in a deeper understanding of some of the mechanisms of methane ignition by explosives and suggests that some of the earlier regulations can be relaxed to a certain extent without compromising safety. This paper gives an overview of the original research done in Europe and the more recent work in the USA, to give mine management and regulatory authorities a deeper understanding of the important safety issues when using explosives in a methane atmosphere. It also suggests that blasting off the solid is no less safe than using a second free face providing certain safety procedures are followed.
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