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Commercial Coal Mining: Understanding Surface Mining Techniques

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If you have acquired land with coal mining potential, it is critical to understand the different techniques and machines that can be used in extracting the material. This will be crucial in making a decision on the most economical and eco-friendly way for your investment. You should consider surface mining because it allows direct access to the mineral with minimal effort. Here are the main surface mining techniques and the required equipment.

Strip Mining

Strip mining involves exposing the coal by removing the soil above the seam deposit. The ground material is known as overburden, and it is usually removed in strips. When the first strip is excavated, the soil is collected and deposited in a designated area outside the confines of the mining field. The coal is extracted from this strip until the open seam is exhausted. When the second strip is excavated, the overburden is dumped into the empty ground of the first strip and so on. You can choose this method if your identified coal site is in a flat area. For this technique, you will need shovels, excavators, draglines and dump trucks for earthmoving.

Contour Mining

The contour mining technique is appropriate for coal deposits that are on a hillside or even along ridges. Formerly, the process involved excavating the soil material and dumping along the slope. Unfortunately, the overburden posed significant landslide and erosion issues. In the modern setup, the method is similar to strip mining. The soil from the first cut will be deposited downhill and second cut overburden will refill the first. Contour mining will require equipment like bucket excavators, loaders and dump trucks to move the overburden. A natural ridge or outcropping should be available outside the mining area on the hillside to support the overburden. Unfortunately, this does not give access to all coal deposits like strip mining because of the slope angle.

Mountaintop Removal

The mountaintop removal is advantageous when the coal seams are near the top of steep terrain. As implied, this technique involves removing the mountaintop or hilltops from the steep area to expose the coal. The overburden is deposited in valleys between the steep areas such that a ridge is left as a plateau. Therefore, this method can only be performed in areas where there are hollows or depressions to fill the soil. The primary type of machinery that is crucial for mountaintop removal is the dragline excavator. You should note that this type of project might experience legal opposition if it will disrupt the ecosystem significantly.