Room-and-Pillar Method of Open- Stope Mining - Production Methods of Room-and-Pillar Coal Mining

Bullock, Richard L.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 29
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION TO COAL MINE PRACTICES To illustrate the trends and the proportions of the various methods used to mine coal underground, Fig. 1 is useful. However, of all the underground coal mining practices in the US, room-and-pillar mining still accounts for 96.5%. This percentage is divided as follows: conventional, machine cut-33.0%; conventional, hand cut -1.7% : and continuous mining-61 .8%. As was stated in Sec. 1, Chap. 7, the term "development" means different things to a coal miner and a metal miner. Though some of the ideas and concepts presented in the first two chapters of this section are valid for all types of mines, they apply particularly to mines using noncoal methods. In coal mines (and many other mines using coal mining systems) development refers to that phase of the mining cycle which advances several entries through the virgin seam, forming pillars by cross- cutting between the parallel entries. Because in the past, coal seams (as well as seams of potash, trona, oil shales, gilsonite, salt, and some uranium) have been much more uniform in their thickness, continuity, and quality, and because they often cover large areas, it has been possible to develop the room-and-pillar mine completely from a preplanned, systematic approach with a minimum of surface drilling information. As the better coal seams of the midwest and east are being depleted (or eliminated because of high sulfur), seams of poor quality and continuity will have to be mined. Also, seams that are not nearly so well known at greater depth will have to be taken as well as some of the steeply pitching and folded seams of the west. The American coal miner is only now feeling the need to do a much more complete job of prospecting the geology of the coal seams than he has ever done before. This is the only way that the risk of unknown rock conditions can be minimized. In many ways, surprises in the rock or coal seams are much more of a disaster to the coal miner developing a room-and- pillar mine than to his metal mining counterpart. Be- cause of the multiple entries, the complex set of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety regulations, and the totally dedicated design of coal mining equipment, coal mining systems do not have the flexibility to easily overcome changes in the seams mined or the rocks around them. Thus, if a wide parting of rock shows up unexpectedly in the middle of a coal seam entry being milled away by a continuous miner, it will either have to slowly "chew" through it, convert to a conventional mining system, or stop that particular entry. Likewise, if suddenly the coal disappears completely and in its place are the remains of an old creek bed, the "want" or "wash out" as it's called will usually have to be mined right along with the coal, by the same methods and with the same soft rock equipment, or the entry will have to be abandoned. For reasons such as these, coal seams today should be drilled from the surface just as thoroughly as the ore bodies in metal mines. Having once determined a more precise location of where the coal seams are located and which are suitable for mining, the engineer must still take a systematic approach to planning the mine as completely as possible. The initial series of entries must be planned to be driven either from the side hill portal or from the bottom of the shaft or slope. In either case, they should usually intersect the area close to the midpoint of the mass to be mined.
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