Half a Career Trying to Understand Why the Roof Along the Longwall Face Falls in from Time to Time?

Frith, Russell
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2005
Probably the most expensive but least well understood roof falls in underground coal mining, are those that occur ahead of the powered supports in the centre of longwall face. Even small roof cavities result in the dilution of the ROM product and large cavities can stop the face for days if not weeks and the incurred cash flow losses can be catastrophic. Expensive and time-consuming remedial measures (e.g. PUR, cavity filling, removal of stone from the AFC by hand) are required and equipment wear and damage can be significant when the need to blast and convey stone is also considered. Through four major research projects within the Australian coal industry and numerous consulting assignments, the author has spent the best part of fifteen years attempting to identify and defme the various geotechnical and operational factors that determine whether a major roof cavity occurs ahead of the powered supports or a normal goaf fall occurs just behind them, the difference in operational outcome being enormous. The paper presents a condensed summary of the overall technical findings covering such issues as roof fall mechanisms, the measured influence of cover depth, periodic weighting of massive strata units and its quantification, the role of cut-throughs in chain pillars, face width and height, the role of the powered support and the influence (both positive and negative) of mine site operations. The big picture outcome is the view that high production longwall extraction is well-suited to certain geotechnical environments, is marginal in others and under certain conditions is fatally flawed and beyond the control of mine operators, although fortunately the latter category is a relatively rare situation. Various risk-based research findings in this regard will be given as a basis for future discussion.
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