Longwall Mining of Trona by Allied Chemical Corp.

Wilson, David ; Rao, T. V.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION The Alchem trona mine, owned and operated by Allied Chemical Corp., is located approximately 32 km (20 miles) west of the town of Green River, and 8 km (5 miles) north of Interstate 80 in southwest Wyoming. Trona, a naturally occuring sodium sesquicarbonate (NaCO3 • NaHCO3 • 2H2O), is used for the production of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), commonly known as soda ash. Present annual US consumption of soda ash is approximately 9.07 Mt (10 million st), out of which approximately 7.3 Mt (8 million st) is produced from the Wyoming trona mines. About 44% of soda ash is consumed by the glass industry; 3 % by exports; and the remaining portion by paper, chemical, soap, textile, and nonferrous industries. Allied Chemical operates an underground mine at an average depth of about 488 m (1600 ft). There are three other trona mines in the area operated by FMC Corp., Stauffer Chemical Corp., and Texasgulf Inc. (see Fig. 1). Allied Chemical became interested in southwest Wyoming trona deposits in the early 1940s. Explora¬tion work was begun in 1959 with the acquisition of federal leases. Exploitation of the reserves began in 1968. Two shafts, one 6.1 m (20 ft) and another 3.7 m (12 ft), were completed prior to 1968. The 6.1-m (20-ft) diam service shaft is divided in half by a cur¬tain wall, with one half used for men and material and the other for ventilation as a return air shaft. During the period from 1968 to 1974, the 3.7-m (12-ft) shaft was used as production shaft with two 7.3-t (8-st) skips. Due to the increased demand for soda ash, plant and mine expansions were completed during 1974. Under this expansion, the material handling system capacity was increased by constructing a new 2721-t (3000-st) capacity ore bin, sinking a 6.1-m (20-ft) diam produc¬tion shaft, and installing a friction hoist with two 22.7-t (25-st) skips. The Alchem mine manpower is 484 employees and about 2.3 Mt (2.5 million st) of trona was produced during 1976. Three different mining systems are used at the Alchem mine: conventional, continuous, and longwall. Allied Chemical introduced its first longwall unit in 1973, which was also the first longwall system introduced in the Wyoming trona district. At present, four conventional, seven continuous, and two longwall units are in operation. This equipment is operated in ten production areas. GEOLOGY The bedded trona and trona-halite in the Green River basin of southwestern Wyoming is a major re¬source for the nation. There are 25 beds that exceed 0.9 m (3 ft) in thickness and underlie areas of about 2590 km2 (1000 sq miles). There are other minor beds that range in thickness from 0.3 to 1.2 m (1 to 4 ft). Allied Chemical's Alchem mine is located in bed 17. The trona bed numbering system starts at the lowest elevation and increases upwards. The trona beds are in the Wilkens Peak member of the Green River formation. The Green River formation was deposited in a lake that began in early Eocene as a large body of fresh water, shrank in size and became saline, and then became fresh water again. The sedi¬ment during the saline phase of the lake, which includes the trona beds, is called the Wilkens Peak member. The underlying freshwater lake deposit is called the Tipton member and includes a 25.9-m (85-ft) sand unit which is a high pressure, low permeability aquifer. The over¬lying sediment is called the Laney shale. The Green River formation is underlaid by the Wasatch formation and overlaid by the Bridger formation (see Fig. 2). The structure of the beds in the area of the Allied Chemical mine is mostly postdepositional asymmetrical folds of small amplitude. These folds range in size of 3 to 6.1 m (10 to 20 ft) to as much as 45.7 m (150 ft). The trend of the folds is northwesterly with the north¬east flank of the anticlines having a steep dip and the southwest having gentle dips. Trona bed 17 varies in thickness from 2.4 to 3.4 m (8 to 11 ft) over the 93.2 km2 (36 sq miles) holdings of Allied Chemical and is flat lying except for the rela¬tively minor folding and a negligible regional dip of about 0.017 rad (1°). Trona occurs naturally in several physical forms in the Green River basin, being both massive and crystal¬line. The trona ore in the Alchem mine is a fine-grained massive ore with a compressive strength of approxi-
Full Article Download:
(595 kb)