Protecting Underground Coal Miners From Rib Falls

Gauna, Michael
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 9
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2011
In 2010, the number of fatal rib falls in U.S. underground coal mines exceeded fatal roof falls for the first time ever. While recent trends have seen roof fall fatalities reduced by about 62% since the 1990s (from an average of 9.6 per year in the 1990s to 3.6 per year during the last five years), the incidence of rib fall fatalities has remained approximately constant (about 1.5 per year). In addition, injury incidents associated with pillar rib failure have been steady at approximately 100 per year. The persistence of rib fall injuries, underlined by the recent increase in rib fall fatalities, has led to this investigation of the coal rib failure parameters and methods available to mitigate rib failure in U.S. underground coal mines A detailed study of the 21 fatal rib fall incidents that have occurred since 1995 (excluding coal burst incidents) indicates that the two most important risk factors are the mining height and the depth of cover. The depth of cover was 700 ft (213 m) or greater in 81% of the fatalities, and the mining height was at or exceeded 7 ft (2 m) in every instance but one. Other risk factors included multiple seam interactions, rock partings in the seam, and retreat mining. The accident history reveals that joints or slickenside features within the rib increase the hazard. Approximately threequarters of the rib fatality victims were roof bolting machine operators and continuous mining machine operators. This paper includes a brief overview of techniques for rib control; including bolts, standing support, bent steel straps, and rib strapping. The available mining equipment features for installing rib support and protecting operators from rib falls are also discussed. A proactive approach to rib control using available technologies will lower the risk to miners and is an endeavor that must be pursued to reduce rib fall accidents.
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