Analysis Of Practical Ground Control Issues In Highwall Mining

Zipf, R. Karl
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2004
Highwall mining is an important coal mining method. Upwards of 60 highwall miners are presently in operation, and they may account for approximately 4% of total U.S. coal production. A review of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) accident data over the 20 year period from 1983 to 2002 identified 9 fatalities attributable to auger and highwall mining of which inadequate ground control accounted for 1/3. In the past 5 years, 1 fatality occurred in highwall mining. Estimates of the manpower requirements in highwall mining suggest that its fatality rate is essentially the same as for surface coal mining, thus highwall mining appears to be a very safe modern mining method. Highwall stability is the major ground control related safety concern, and operators are required to develop and follow an appropriate highwall mining ground control plan. The plans usually specify the following geotechnical parameters: hole width, maximum hole depth, maximum overburden depth, seam thickness, web pillar width, barrier pillar width and number of holes between barriers. Calculated web pillar stability factor exceeded 1.3 for most designs evaluated. This study examined records from 5,289 highwail miner holes with a total completed footage of about 2,560,000 feet to understand the reasons for early pull out. Average lost footage is typically about 20% of planned footage. Only 35% of the holes reached planned depth, and 20% were short due to rockfalls. Water and adverse geology accounted for 15% of the losses. Mechanical/electrical problems, guidance, and slope stability problems accounted for the remaining 30%. Web pillar stability factor for these holes also exceeded 1.3 in 95% of cases. Trapped highwall miners present a safety hazard to workers during their recovery. Best practices to avoid trapped highwall miners include: avoid mining in stream valleys, avoid mining near outside corners, careful alignment of each hole and the use of an onboard guidance system, Several issues in highwall mining ground control require further investigation including highwall mining through old auger workings, highwall mining near old underground mines, multiple-seam and multiple lift highwall mining and finally the size and frequency of barrier pillars.
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