Practical Subsidence Prediction For The Operating Coal Mine

Heasley, Keith A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
At this point in time, approximately 800 M tonnes (880 M tons) of coal are mined each year in the United States. Forty percent of this coal or approximately 320 M tonnes (350 M tons) is taken from underground coal mines, and from this subtotal 16% or 50 M tonnes (55 M tons) is from longwall panels (1). If, for the sake of argument, an aver- age extraction thickness of 1.5 m (5 ft), an aver- age extraction ratio of 50 percent and an in situ density of 1360 kg/ms (85 lb/ft3) for this coal are assumed, then the 320 M tonnes (350 M tons) of underground coal translates to over 310 km2 (76,000 acres) that is undermined each year. Con- sidering that the total U.S. production of under- ground longwall coal to date is approximately 345 M tonnes (380 M tons), then a total of approximately 165 km2 (41,000 acres) (considering 100% extraction) has been directly undermined by longwall coal production in the United States. If the angle-of- draw is considered, the total area affected by longwall subsidence in the United States is probably twice the above value or 330 km2 (82,000 acres) . In the future, a number of other miscellaneous factors seem likely to multiply the number of potentially damaging situations that occur due to longwall coal mining. First, the overall production of coal in the United States is expected to gradually increase. This factor is further com- pounded by both the fact that the percentage of the overall production due to underground mining is bound to increase, since the vast majority of U.S. reserves (68%) are only recoverable by underground methods, and the fact that the percentage of the underground production of coal that is recovered by longwall mining is drastically increasing (1). Finally, as the nicest underground reserves are depleted, the remaining reserves will tend to be deeper, which increases the affected surface area, and under denser population concentrations, which increases the likelihood and severity of possible damages. Overall, considering the number of factor which are biased towards increasing the amount of undermined acreage, it appears that there must certainly be a corresponding increase in the number of possible damaging situations due to longwall-induced, ground subsidence.
Full Article Download:
(10145 kb)