Room-and-Pillar Method of Open- Stope Mining - Extraction Practices in Thick Coal Seams

Ramani, R. V. ; Bise, C. J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 19
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION Classification of coal seams as thin, medium, and thick is both subjective and relative and is more a reflection of the statistical mode of the thicknesses en- countered in a mining region. A geological factor more precisely understood as defined than thickness is the inclination of the seams to the horizontal, commonly referred to as the pitch or the dip of the seam. Thick and steeply pitching seams present far more challenges to the ingenuity of the mining men to devise methods for their extraction than the thick and less steeply inclined ones. In a marginal case, where a thick coal seam may be minable by surface or underground methods, the decision bears a close relationship to the technological developments in the mining scene. Near surface thick coal seams are a special gift of nature and are not as wide- spread as the ones that call for the application of under- ground methods. Recent advancements in surface mining equipment have made it possible to surface mine to great depths. Stripping ratios of 30: 1 (cu yd of over- burden removed per ton of coal) have been achieved. The extraction of thick seams which preclude the use of surface methods is the concern of this chapter. Specifically, the objective here is to outline the special technological factors in underground mining of thick coal seams and to illustrate through several case histories the methods that are practiced in the North American continent. For the purposes of this chapter, a thick seam is defined as one which is not readily minable with currently available equipment without modifications to the extraction method or the equipment. At the present time, a thickness of 4.8 m (16 ft) can be considered as the lower limit, although developments in equipment and methods can be expected to push this limit upwards. The data for the case histories were collected from two extended mine visits in 1975 and 1978, and from other published accounts of the mines visited. Reference is drawn particularly to reports by Bise, Ramani, and Stefanko (1976) and Rarnani and Kenzy (1979). THICK SEAM MINING METHODS The various methods of mining thick seams can generally be grouped into three major categories: full face methods, where the entire thickness of the seam is re- covered in a single pass; slicing methods, where the seam is extracted to its full thickness by horizontal or inclined slices either in an ascending or descending order; and caving methods, where the seam is undercut and the en- tire coal seam is recovered by caving the top coal into the excavated cut, or some variations of the basic sub- level caving method. As shown in Table 1, in each of these methods, the coal is removed by either room-and-pillar or longwall methods. Hydraulic mining and transport of the coal in open flumes or in pipelines are also practiced. Addition- ally, the void created by the removal of coal may be filled with a packing material (stowing) except in the caving methods. The pitch (dip) of the seam, particularly when it is greater than 0.26 rad (150), imposes severe operational limitations on mobile equipment. A more detailed general discussion of the methods can be found in Bise et al. (1976) and Vorobjev and Deshmukh (1964). Specific discussion on the many variations of the three basic methods can be found in the papers presented at the international symposia that were held in
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