Underground mining methods

What is Underground mining methods?

Underground mining methods meaning

  • A drift mine is driven horizontally into coal that is exposed or accessible in a hillside. In a hydraulic mine, high-pressure water jets break the coal from a steeply inclined, thick coalbed that would be difficult to mine with the usual underground methods. The coal is then transported to the surface by a system of flumes or by pipeline. Although currently not in commercial use in the United States, hydraulic mining is used in western Canada.
  • A punch mine is a type of small drift mine used to recover coal from strip-mine highwalls or from small, otherwise uneconomical, coal deposits. A shaft mine is driven vertically to the coal deposit. A slope mine is driven at an angle to reach the coal deposit.
  • In a room-and-pillar mining system, the most common method, the mine roof, is supported mainly by coal pillars left at regular intervals. Rooms are places where the coal is mined; pillars are areas of coal left between the rooms. Room-and-pillar mining is done either by 1) conventional mining, which involves a series of operations that require cutting the working face of the coalbed so that it breaks easily when blasted with explosives or high-pressure air, and then loading the broken coal or 2) continuous mining, in which a continuous mining machine extracts and removes coal from the working face in one operation. When a section of a mine has been fully developed, additional coal is extracted by mining the supportive pillars until the roof caves in; the procedure is called room-and-pillar retreat mining.
  • In a longwall mining system, long sections of coal, up to about 700 feet, are removed and no pillars are left to support the mined-out areas. The working area is protected by a movable, powered roof support system. The caved area (gob) compacts and, after initial subsidence, supports the overlying strata. Longwall mining is used where the coalbed is thick and generally flat, where surface subsidence is acceptable.
  • A shortwall mining system generally refers to the room-and-pillar mining in which the working face is wider than usual but smaller (less than 150 feet) than that in longwall mining.

Roof support and mine ventilation are paramount in all underground mining operations. Roof bolting is the principal method of supporting the mine roof. In roof bolting, long bolts, 2 to 10 feet long with an expansion shell or with resin grouting are placed in the mine roof. The bolts reinforce the roof by pulling together rock strata to make a strong beam or by fastening weak strata to strong strata. Mine ventilation, accomplished with fans, is essential to supply fresh air and to remove gases and dust from the mine. To reduce the possibility of coal dust explosions, rock dust is sprayed in an underground coal mine. Rock dust is a very fine noncombustible material (pulverized limestone).


reference: Glossary – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)