Introduction to Shortwall Mining

Trent, Robert H. ; Katen, Kenneth P.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
GENERAL DESCRIPTION Shortwall mining is one of the newest mining meth¬ods to be introduced into the world coal industry. The technique of shortwalling seems to have a number of origins, but it is generally agreed that it is an outgrowth of pillar-and-stall mining where timbering was employed as the primary means of roof support. In early opera¬tions the face was undercut by a shortwall cutter, hand¬bored, and blasted. The coal was loaded by hand or gathering arm loader. Australia, having experienced success with this method, advanced the technique through the use of mechanized roof supports in 1968. Although there were several attempts at shortwalling in the US, it was not until 1973 that Eastern Associated Coal Corp.'s Federal No. 1 mine successfully extracted a shortwall panel. Table 1 is a list of shortwall opera¬tions in the US as of April 1976. Shortwall mining is a method of mining in which a continuous miner cuts and loads from the short end of a rectangular pillar of coal while hydraulically powered self-advancing roof supports provide protective cover. Characteristics of a shortwall system include panel di¬mensions (Fig. 1) of 610 to 1219 m (2000 to 4000 ft) in length, face widths of 30 to 61 m (100 to 200 ft), straight-line ventilation, and production machinery, with the exception of roof supports, commonly used on con¬tinuous miner units. GENERAL REQUIREMENTS AND LIMITATIONS The justification for shortwalling is primarily eco¬nomic, i.e., increased production and recovery concur¬rent with savings in material and labor. The method also has a number of secondary benefits including the much needed progress it has stimulated in deep mine technology, the alternatives it presents to some of the problems resulting from the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, and is perhaps a key to the solution of the enigmatic labor problems which plague the industry. The advantages of shortwall mining over continuous miner units include the following: a highly effective method of ventilation and dust control; a greater per¬centage of extraction (approximately 85%) ; fewer equipment moves, hence more efficient operating time; cost savings on materials such as roof bolts, rock dust, ventilation curtains, timbering materials, and the labor needed to supply, load, and transport these materials; a cyclical pattern of mining, each phase of which, i.e., development and retreat, lasts for approximately three months and appears to be psychologically motivating as well as highly productive; and improved safety. In addition to these positive aspects, a shortwall sys¬tem also has advantages over a longwall system, and these are listed as follows: the capital outlay for a shortwall system is one-third to one-fourth that for a longwall (1976 prices); the shortwall system utilizes equipment that is used on a continuous miner section, with the ex¬ception of the roof support system; there is a great deal of flexibility in areas with numerous gas wells and in areas where surface subsidence cannot be tolerated; the shortwall has reduced tailgate problems, since the tail¬gate entry serves as a return airway only; and the cyclical pattern of mining insures that the mining machinery pro¬duces coal even while the roof support system is being moved to another panel. There are several parameters which govern the se¬lection and use of a shortwall system. They are all of equal importance, and hence are not listed in any par¬ticular order. These are deposit size, seam height, seam inclination, roof and floor conditions, depth of over¬burden, subsidence and chain pillar extraction, man¬power, ventilation, and materials handling. Deposit Size Reserves available for shortwalling should be suffi¬cient for at least an eight to ten-year period, since this seems to be the effective life, without rebuilding, of a hydraulic roof support under average conditions. Of
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