Sandy Creek Waterfall?Case Study of Successful Management of the Potential Impacts of Longwall Mining on a Sensitive Natural Surface Feature

Hebblewhite, Bruce K.
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 9
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2014
BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal operates Dendrobium Mine in an area 10-20km west-northwest of Wollongong in the Southern Coalfield of New South Wales, Australia. The mine recently completed longwall mining in Area 3A adjacent to an overhanging rock feature known as Sandy Creek Waterfall, which had been identified as a significant, and potentially sensitive natural surface feature of the environment. This waterfall lies within the Sydney drinking water catchment area, in a surface terrain of variable topography where non-conventional subsidence behaviour such as valley closure, and far-field horizontal movements are known to occur, over and above conventional subsidence responses to mining. As a part of the conditions of approval to mine, Illawarra Coal undertook to protect the waterfall and the section of Sandy Creek immediately upstream of the waterfall from the effects of longwall mining using an innovative management process and an array of very high resolution monitoring systems. This paper outlines the type of non-conventional subsidence effects that can occur; the range of different monitoring regimes adopted in response to such effects in order to develop an understanding of the valley closure phenomenon in proximity to the waterfall and provide suitable early warning data. The paper also describes the management processes that were adopted, incorporating the use of these monitoring regimes in order to successfully protect the waterfall from the valley closure effects of mining four adjacent longwall panels in close proximity to the waterfall while continuing to maximise recovery of the coal resource in the area. The management structure adopted involved a technical committee, a steering committee, and an external independent reviewer. The technical committee was responsible for design of the monitoring systems, interpretation of the results, and making timely recommendations to the company steering committee who were then able to make informed decisions on when to cease mining each adjacent panel. The steering committee comprised Illawarra Coal management and technical personnel. Although the steering committee took advice from the technical committee, all decisions relating to mining were made by the steering committee. An external reviewer was engaged by the steering committee at the end of each longwall panel to review the results, interpretation and management decisions. This management structure was effective in successfully protecting the very sensitive structure of Sandy Creek Waterfall from potential impacts of nearby mining in the midst of active ongoing natural erosion processes.
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