Investigation of Subsidence Event Over Multiple Seam Mining Area

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 4
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1992
An investigation was performed to determine the sequence of events which caused the 1987 surface subsidence and related damage to several homes in Walker County, Alabama, USA (see Figure 1). Surface affects compared to mine maps indicated the subsidence to be mine related. However, two coal seams had been worked under this area. The upper seam, the American seam ranged from 250 to 280 feet beneath the surface in the area in question. It was mined-out before 1955 by room-and-pillar method leaving in place narrow-long pillars to support the overburden strata, and abandoned in 1955. The lower seam, the Mary Lee seam, ranged from 650 to 700 feet beneath the surface. The Mary Lee seam had been abandoned in 1966 and subsequently became flooded. The dewatering of the Mary Lee seam workings in 1986 caused the submerged pillars to be exposed to the atmosphere. Due to multiple seam mining and the fact that workings had been inundated then dewatered, a subsurface investigation ensued to determine the sequence and ultimate cause of surface subsidence. Core sample tests with fracture analysis in conjunction with "down-the-hole" TV camera inspections provided necessary information to determine that the subsidence started in the lower seam and progressed through the upper coal seam to the surface. Evidence from the investigation program established that dewatering of the lower seam workings caused the marginally stable support pillars and the roof to collapse. This failure triggered additional subsidence in the upper seam which broadened the area of the influence at the surface.
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