Control Of Mine Subsidence Utilizing Coal Ash As A Backfill Material

Evans, D. W.
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
Mine subsidence problems due to coal extraction have occurred in a number of areas throughout the United States. Depending on the local geology, the depth of the mined seam, the type of mining method employed for extraction, and other related factors, subsidence can result in anywhere from slight displacements to a total loss of ground. These conditions can have serious consequences on the health and safety of the people living above the mined areas. A number of methods exist to provide support for the ground overlying mines. All of these methods employ some mechanism for providing additional support to either the roof of the mine or the sides of the pillars. Since failure usually occurs due to overburden stresses which are transmitted to the roof and pillars, these methods employ techniques to counteract stresses induced due to the coal extraction. The applicability of any particular method will depend on the availability of backfill material, the areal extent of the affected area, and of course, the cost. The primary use of coal ash for subsidence control has been as a backfill material for the stabilization of large areas. Large scale backfilling projects for subsidence control have been performed in Rock Springs, Wyoming, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pennsylvania, and in Fairmont, West Virginia. Some of these projects have utilized sand, as well as, coal ash as backfill material. Much of the backfilling work performed in the United States has been done in an effort to control mine subsidence in abandoned mines. South Africa, on the other hand, has used backfilling extensively both for ash disposal and to increase extraction in active mines. The utilization of repetitive fill and mine techniques has resulted in extraction increases of as much as eight percent in shallow mines and as much as twelve percent in deep mines.(1) The coal ash injection system which can be used for backfilling depends largely upon whether the mine voids are dry or submerged. For dry mines, hydraulic or pneumatic conveyance systems can be used, while submerged mines are limited to backfilling by hydraulic methods. The use of coal ash as a backfill material has a number of advantages, such as: 1. Coal ash is available in areas throughout the United States and in many instances is conveniently located near areas requiring backfilling. 2. Coal ash is available in significant quantities since many coals when burned will result in about 15 to 30 percent ash by weight. 3. Coal ash as backfill is, in many instances, the most economical alternative fill material. Due to the costs associated with above ground disposal, power companies will often times give the material away to lower their overall operating expenses. 4. Coal ash is usually pozzolanic in nature, that is, this material results in cementitious bonding within the backfilled matrix of material.
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