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Mining Program Area: Ground Control


OMSHR Ground Control ProgramThe ground control program aims to improve the state of the art in ground control practices in U.S. mines through research, dissemination, and training. It seeks to advance the understanding of potential ground control hazards and improve worker safety by reducing the occurrence of rock falls.

In 2002–2011, an average of 6 fatalities and 520 injuries related to ground control in underground coal mines occurred per year. Ground falls remain the highest single cause of fatalities and injuries in underground coal mines. Metal/nonmetal mines had an average of 2 fatalities and over 200 injuries related to ground control failures in the past 5 years. Ground control research and worker training could lead to a reduction of these injuries and fatalities.

In addition to the statistics, mining keeps evolving, and the potential ground control related hazards need to be evaluated, addressed, and appropriately controlled. The ability to adjust practices and knowledge as the mining methods evolve is essential to ensuring that mine worker health and safety continues to improve.

The ground control program works to answer the following questions: How can pillar and support designs be improved to eliminate rock fall hazards in mining? What are the signs of rib instability, and what are the best practices and designs to eliminate this hazard? What are the causal factors of roof falls, and how can they be identified before, during, and after mining? What can be done to reduce roof falls to improve worker safety? How can supports be designed to accommodate new production requirements and mine designs?


The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) is the primary mining research institute in the United States, and it supports the majority of the other U.S. organizations performing research in ground control safety. OMSHR has an exceptional mix of researchers with theoretical and practical expertise in ground control to provide a deep insight into the issues and potential solutions for improving ground stability conditions in underground mines. OMSHR also has a unique testing machine for evaluating and testing standing supports. These tests give the mining industry information for both established and prototype support designs for improved gateroad stability in a wide range of ground conditions. This facility is the only one of its kind in the United States and has capabilities not found anywhere in the world.

Currently OMSHR has a mix of internal projects, external contracts, and collaborative research ventures. While OMSHR's internal expertise is fairly expansive, the specific focus and differing viewpoints of its external contracts and collaborators provide an opportunity to accomplish OMSHR's mission in a timely fashion. Additionally, the external contracts are an avenue to advance the industry expertise in ground control and add additional researchers to complete relevant research that OMSHR does not have the capacity to perform currently.

Numerous software programs have been developed to give the industry guidelines and tools for both mine design and support design to reduce ground instability. These include Analysis of Longwall Pillar Stability (ALPS) and Analysis of Retreat Mining Pillar Stability (ARMPS), which are required by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for underground coal mines. Most recently, a program called S-Pillar was developed for stones mines; it provides design guidance for entry and pillar sizes to prevent collapses. A new methodology has been proposed for evaluating and designing rock bolts for support in coal mine roofs. Tools were recently developed to evaluate shotcrete flexural strength, adhesion, and early strength.

Projects & Contracts

TitlePIsStart DateDescription
Coal Mine Safety Applications of Seismic MonitoringPeter L. Swanson10/1/2010A project to implement in-mine seismic monitoring techniques in coal mines to evaluate and demonstrate potential mine safety benefits of this technology.
Design Procedures for Gateroad Ground ControlGabriel Esterhuizen10/1/2014A project to develop engineering-based procedures that will contribute to the practical design of ground control systems in gateroad excavations and longwall extractions.
Development of Guidelines for the Design of Support Systems to Manage Coal Mine Rib HazardsKhaled Mohamed10/1/2011A project to develop guidelines for determining the appropriate level of support and design methods for support systems to minimize the risk and severity of injuries to miners from rib falls in underground coal mines.
Ground Control Safety for Deep Vein MinesJoseph B. Seymour4/1/2014A project to establish a new standard for ground control safety in deep vein mines.
TitlePIsStart DateDescription
Calibration and Verification of Longwall Stress ModelsMark Larson10/1/2010A project to address the paucity of guidance in available literature for assessing the design an underground longwall coal mine for safe ground response to mining with numerical stress analysis tools.
Empirical Guidelines for Longwall Ground Control DesignTed. M. Klemetti10/1/2010A project to update the database of case histories upon which the Analysis of Longwall Pillar Stability (ALPS) software bases its recommended stability factors.
Identification of Areas at Risk for Coal Bursts in Deep Cover Room and Pillar MinesTed M. Klemetti10/1/2010A project to define the geologic and stress criteria associated with an elevated risk of coal bursts, considering both U.S. and international experience through visits to coalfields.
Mine Roof Simulator (MRS) LaboratoryDavid F. Gearhart10/25/2007A project to utilize the capabilities of the Mine Roof Simulator (MRS) Laboratory to test underground roof support and ventilation structures and apply these results to engineer safer products and applications.
Support Design Procedures for Difficult Ground ConditionsEssie Esterhuizen10/1/2009A project to develop engineering guidelines for support design that will reduce groundfall fatalities under supported roof in underground coal mines.
TitleContractorContract/IAG #Start DateDescription
Analysis of Mine Seismicity and Geotechnical Modeling for Improved Safety in Underground Coal MinesUniversity of Utah200-2011-396146/22/2011A capacity-building contract to provide qualified individuals with opportunities to pursue MS and PhD degrees focused on ground control, research the cause of mining-induced seismicity, and improve safety in burst-prone coal mines.
Building Capacity and Enhancing Ground Control Safety through Improvement and Extension of the LaModel ProgramWest Virginia University200-2011-403429/12/2011A capacity-building contract to enhance ground control safety and produce qualified MS and PhD graduates with ground control expertise through improving and extending the LaModel program.
Development of Strength Criteria for Coal and Nonsedimentary Rock Masses and Investigation of Underground and Open Pit Mine Stability of Such Rock MassesUniversity of Arizona200-2011-398869/1/2011A capacity-building contract to develop strength criteria for coal and non-sedimentary rock masses and to investigate the underground and open pit mine stability of these rock masses.
Generation of Geomechanical and Time-dependent Properties of Coal and Coal Measure RocksWest Virginia University200-2011-406769/1/2011A capacity-building contract to understand the time-dependent behavior of some coal measure rocks under certain loading conditions, evaluate post-failure behavior, and acquire reliable site-specific input properties for numerical modeling.
Identification of Potential Roof Problems Using LED Lighting & Numerical Modeling of Highwall Stability Using FLAC3DUniversity of Kentucky200-2011-406289/27/2011A capacity-building contract to (1) develop light technology to identify roof problems and (2) use FLAC3D to model highwall stability and determine the effects of ground vibrations from blasting.
Instrumentation of Roof Bolt Drill for Ground Characterization, Mapping, and Support DesignPennsylvania State University211-2011-411389/29/2011A capacity-building contract to develop a roof bolt drill instrumented for ground characterization, mapping, and support design.
New Technologies for Identifying and Understanding Ground Stability HazardsVirginia Polytechnic Institute & State University200-2011-403138/16/2011A capacity-building contract to quantify the ground response in underground coal mines with different geologic settings and depths of cover.
Weak Rock Mass in Nevada Gold Mines: Behavior, Support Design, and PerformanceUniversity of Nevada, Reno200-2011-399658/1/2011A capacity-building contract to address ground control design issues in weak rock masses in Nevada.
TitleContractorContract/IAG #Start DateDescription
Deep Coal Mine Safety Studies to Promote Development of Recommendations for Deep Coal Mine Safety through Monitoring Seismic Events The University of Utah 200-2008-254386/5/2008A contract to investigate and report on the state-of-the-art in mine seismic monitoring systems and methodologies as applied to deep coal mining.
Development of a Mine Rescue Drilling System and Robotics Mission Feasibility StudySandia National Laboratories 08FED8983495/14/2008An interagency agreement to conduct experiments to improve the efficiency and speed of drilling operations and develop robots and robotic assist technology.
The Role of Gas Desorption in the Energetic Failure of Coal The Pennsylvania State University 200-2008-257026/26/2008A contract to evaluate the role of gas desorbing on the failure of coal and the resultant influence on dynamic failures such as bumps, bursts, and outbursts. The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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