Streams and Longwall Coal Mining Subsidence: A Pennsylvania Perspective

Iannacchione, Anthony T
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2011
Longwall mining produces surface subsidence basins that affect streams by water diminution and contamination. These effects can ultimately impair the biological character of the plants and animal communities living in the streams. The combination of flow, water quality, and ecological effects threaten the environmental sustainability of longwall mining and, ultimately its social acceptability. Pennsylvania has developed new standards, released in 2005 and implemented in 2007, to help protect the commonwealth?s valuable streams from the detrimental effects of subsidence. These standards are aimed at eliminating environmental problems and will therefore help to make underground bituminous coal mining more sustainable. The engineering solutions necessary to comply with these standards are fundamentally affected by the geologic nature of coal-bearing strata, the existing in-situ stress conditions, and the ability of selected species to survive and adapt to changes in their environment caused by longwall coal mining subsidence. Needless to say, geologists, biologists, and engineers are all playing a pivotal role in developing prevention controls and recovery measures necessary to protect streams and sustain underground coal mining. The challenges facing scientists and engineers in sustaining the development of underground coal mining in Pennsylvania are examined through case studies. These challenges all arise from the subsidence effects of longwall mining. The key effects of subsidence, discussed through case studies, are: a) tension cracks, b) springs in headwater stream areas, c) stream gradients and subsidence basins, and d) stream compression ruptures and horizontal stress. All of these potential threats demonstrate the need for high-level scientific knowledge and innovative engineering solutions. One could argue that Pennsylvania?s stringent stream protection standards put the coal mining industry at a competitive disadvantage compared to other coal producing states. It is equally likely that compliance with these standards help to mitigate the effect of subsidence, thereby helping the coal industry achieve a sustainable future.
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