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Mining Program Area: Explosion Prevention


The purpose of the explosion prevention program is to:

  • eliminate explosions in underground coal mines. Through this research, OMSHR will determine the appropriate sampling interval to detect the hazard of a propagating explosion based on how far an explosion can travel through an inert length of an entry;
  • assess the current band sampling method’s ability to produce a representative sample of coal/rock dust that contributes to an explosion;
  • determine if floor dust is currently over-sampled, and therefore underestimating the hazard of coal dust on the top most layers of dust on a mine floor, roof, and ribs;
  • evaluate if the current practice of not sampling the inaccessible side of a belt entry results in an underestimation of the explosion hazard;
  • determine if variations in the surface moisture present in mine dust presents, over time, a potential for underestimating the explosion hazard based on the current collection and analysis method;
  • conclude if the current practice analyzing the < 20 mesh dust results is an underestimation of the potential dust explosion hazard compared to a < 60 mesh cut used in other countries;
  • quantify the effect that variable mineral composition and particle size distribution in currently compliant rock dust has on its capacity to inert coal dust;
  • identify relationships between the methods and frequency of rock dust application and the ability to maintain inert dust concentrations in mines; and
  • assess the use of rock dust barriers as supplemental protection in belt entries.

This work affects mine worker health and safety by eliminating coal dust explosions in underground coal mines through improved methodologies for identifying and mitigating explosible accumulations of coal dust.


We are investigating aspects of rock dusting and dust sampling that have existed for several decades. Since the adoption of these explosion prevention requirements, mining methods have developed and changed considerably, resulting in finer coal dust being generated by the mining process. Consequently, these changes may require a different sample collection method to adequately determine the explosion hazards.

Significant milestones on these projects and contracts include:

  • a fundamental scientific understanding of critical dust sampling issues that identify potentially dangerous accumulations of hazardous mixtures of coal and rock dust,
  • engineering procedures and analysis protocols for collecting representative samples to identify dangerous accumulations of explosible dust mixtures,
  • a characterization of the influence rock dust size and composition has on its ability to effectively inert coal dust, and
  • technology transfers to inform the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the mining community about proper dust sampling and application techniques.

Projects & Contracts

TitlePIsStart DateDescription
Float Dust Control in Underground Coal MinesSteven Mischler10/1/2013A project to reduce float dust deposition in return and belt airways of underground coal longwall mines through laboratory and field evaluation of novel dust prevention, capture, and suppression methods and dissemination of related findings.
Improving Coal Dust Explosion Hazard Assessment StrategiesMarcia L. Harris10/1/2010A project to eliminate coal dust explosions in underground coal mines.
Ventilation of Longwall FacesSteven Schatzel4/1/2014A project to improve the capabilities to detect changing ventilation conditions along a longwall face arising from poor roof caving characteristics and increasing face length.
TitlePIsStart DateDescription
Improving Underground Coal Mine Sealing StrategiesRichard Karl Zipf2/13/2008A project seeking to eliminate disasters from gas explosions within sealed areas of coal mines through improved engineering of the complete sealing process and better education of the mining workforce.
TitleContractorContract/IAG #Start DateDescription
A Compact, Wearable, Personal Monitor for Real-Time Detection of Nitrogen Dioxide in MinesPlatypus Technologies, LLC211-2013-569178/20/2013A contract to develop a liquid crystal (LC)-based nitrogen dioxide monitor housing a sensor which will detect and trigger an audio-visual alarm to warn miners when the concentration of nitrogen dioxide levels exceeds the threshold limits.
Combustion Modeling and Spontaneous Combustion Prevention in Longwall GobsTrustees of the Colorado School of Mines211-2014-600509/1/2014A capacity-building contract to examine the explosion and fire hazards in the gobs of underground longwall coal mines through physical and numerical modeling.
Development of Dust Control Units for Underground Coal MinesJ.H. Fletcher & Co.200-2010-361649/1/2010A contract to design, construct, and test two new dust collection components for continuous mining operations in underground coal mines.
Enhancing Mine Safety via Intrinsically Safe Battery-Powered Wireless Sensor NetworkInnovative Wireless Technologies200-2013-569489/12/2013A contract to provide a fully wireless, battery-operated, atmospheric, gas monitor solution that is rapidly deployable.
Evaluating the Inherent Safety of Li-ion Batteries in Portable Electronics Used in Underground Mine EnvironmentsUniversity of Kentucky200-2013-568089/25/2013A contract to experimentally evaluate the inherent safety of Li-ion batteries used in portable electronic devices for underground mine applications.
Methods to De-Energize BatteriesTIAX LLC211-2013-570769/4/2013A contract to develop new technologies for emergency de-energizing of batteries, and to demonstrate prototype systems designed for application in a battery system currently employed in mining operations.
Sensors for Automated Control of Coal Dust (SACCD)University of California200-2013-571559/17/2013A contract to develop wireless sensor technology, using functional prototypes, that can continuously monitor the ratio of rock dust to coal dust throughout an underground coal mine.
TitleContractorContract/IAG #Start DateDescription
Assessment of Technology for Non-destructive Testing of In-situ Underground Mine SealsCardno MM&A200-2012-524979/20/2012A contract to assess four types of existing technology that can be applied to seals in a nondestructive manner under experimental conditions, including radio frequency sensing, ultrasonic sensing, ground penetrating radar, and tracer gas methods.
Best Practice Review of Atmospheric Monitoring Practices for Fire and Explosion Prevention Using Tube Bundle SystemsDepartment of Natural Resources and Mines (SIMTARS)200-2013-569499/23/2013A contract to assess the benefits of implementing tube bundle technology into the US mining industry and identifying the logistical barriers and operational aspects considered for deployment.
Continuous Float Dust MonitorAKITA Innovations, LLC200-2013-572329/23/2013A contract to design, fabricate, and test a continuous float dust monitor (CFDM) in both a laboratory setting and in a test coal mine environment.
Design of Underground Mine Seals Under Explosive Events West Virginia University 200-2007-225418/31/2007A contract to establish guidelines for mine seal design under static and dynamic loading conditions from gas and/or dust explosions within sealed areas.
Development of an Anti-Caking Rock DustIMERYS200-2012-524969/19/2012A contract to develop anti-caking rock dust products.
LiDAR Technology Adaptation to Underground Coal Mines for Float Coal Dust and Rock Dust Mapping ApplicationsElectricore, Inc.200-2013-569479/16/2013A contract to evaluate LiDAR sensing technology to estimate dispersion distances of float coal dust and assess adequacies of rock dust coverage over large areas.
Modeling Natural Gas Explosions for Coal Mine SafetyU.S. Naval Research Laboratory08FED8983421/1/2008A contract to simulate the development and evolution of natural gas (NG) explosions in mine tunnels.
Remote Methane Sensors Ion Optics, Inc.200-2008-24373c3/3/2008A contract to integrate a micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) component into specialized electronics to measure methane levels in underground coal mines.
Safe and Economical Inerting of Sealed Mine Areas On Site Gas Systems, Inc. 200-2008-24811c3/31/2008A contract to design and construct an in-mine mobile gas generation plant to extract nitrogen gas from mine air and inject it into sealed mine areas to maintain a safe environment.
Strengthening an Existing 20-PSI Mine Seal with PPG's Polyurea Coated RetrofitPPG Industries200-2007-204265/27/2007A contract to develop a spray-applied polyurea coating system that would upgrade existing 20-psi approved mine seals to withstand blast pressures greater than 60 psi.
Structural Analysis and Design of Seals for Coal Mine Safety U.S. Army Corps of Engineers08FED8983431/23/2008A contract to transfer protective structure design technology from the defense establishment to the design and construction of seals in the coal industry. The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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