Worldwide Implementation Of Continuous Miner System - Integrating Ground Control With Technology

McClain, Thomas W.
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2001
This paper describes the importance of considering ground control measures when importing U.S. continuous mining technology in foreign countries. Important ground control factors are discussed. Each year the USA exports a significant amount of continuous miner equipment (i.e. continuous miners, roof bolters, coal haulers, shuttle cars, continuous haulages, scoops and feeder-breakers). International customers see the opportunity to significantly improve their productivity and increase their longwall gateroad development rates by implementing the room-and-pillar (place changing) mining systems used throughout the USA. However, a number of issues are often overlooked or not thoroughly evaluated when selecting the equipment, often resulting in lower than expected productivity. Ground control is one of the critical factors that must be addressed. Since 1993, the author has assisted numerous international customers and manufacturers with implementing or improving the performance of continuous miner and room-and-pillar systems in Australia, India, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. An essential first step is to conduct a thorough ground control study, and then integrate its findings into mine layout, equipment selection and section operating plans. Based on actual case histories, the author will present a number of examples and "Do's and Don'ts." Another key to success is the involvement of manufacturers and suppliers with customers when implementing new systems and technology. The importance of allowing for cultural evolution by both management and workers for acceptance and successful implementation of any new system is also discussed. Over the past ten years, the global coal industry has gone through some very dramatic changes. Countries that previously experienced a freight advantage, such as Australia shipping coal to Japan and Korea versus the United States, are finding they are now in a world coal market similar to other commodities and products. Today, coal prices arc stated F.O.B. at the consumer, and the origin is often irrelevant. Also, previously state-run coal industries have been privatized, such as the United Kingdom, and others such as Poland and India are currently going through the same transition from state-run to the private sector. In all cases, the key to continued viability, or survival, depends largely on reducing costs in order to compete for a market share. Two ways exist to reduce costs. First, almost everyone tries to reduce expenditures. Depending on the circumstances at a given mine or in a specific country, this helps to some point. However, most find that secondly, production must be increased to achieve the necessary cost reductions to compete in today's global coal market. As a result, over the past ten years, foreign companies and countries have looked to the USA for new mining methods and systems to significantly increase productivity. Thus, a major portion of American equipment manufacturers and suppliers sales have been exports, which has played a major role in helping to "keep-the-doors-open" for a number of companies through the lean 1990's, when American coal companies were postponing capital expenditures and expansions. As foreign companies and countries have looked to the USA for ways to improve productivity, they have become particularly interested in continuous miner equipment systems and most often "room-and-pillar," "bord-and-pillar" or "place changing" mining systems for four reasons. First, in countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany, who have been longwall mining for generations, there remain numerous remnant small pockets of reserves in existing mines that are either too small or too difficult to longwall mine, and are conducive to the flexibility of continuous miner systems. Second, for countries such as Australia, who have experienced the constant problem of developing longwall gateroads in a timely manner to avoid longwall move delays, new or alternate methods are required. Third, companies and countries using roadheader machines on coal production are recognizing the increased productivity potential of continuous miner equipment. Fourth, countries such as South Africa and India, where a substantial amount of the production comes from conventional mining methods, "drill-and-blast", companies are recognizing the opportunity to improve by implementing continuous miner technology. Colliers & Associates, Inc. has found that over the past eight years too often foreign companies or countries purchase American continuous miner equipment without first conducting a thorough geologic, geotechnical and ground control study for the reserves to be mined. The problems are compounded by not developing mine plans, and submitting them to the regulatory authorities for approval prior to purchasing and even implementing the equipment.
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