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Mining Topic: Ground Monitoring

What is the health and safety problem?

Observing and monitoring rock deformations can provide information for making critical safety decisions. Generally, underground mines use observational techniques to determine roof stability which are not very efficient or accurate. Mine workers have "sounded" the rock - striking it and listening for the “drummy sounds” that signal loose rock. Other techniques include microseismic monitoring, mechanical measurement, load cells, or electromechanical roof monitors.

What is the extent of the problem?

According to Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) statistics (2003-2012), falls of ground were responsible for the largest portion (27%) of fatal incidents in the coal mining industry and about 33% of fatal incidents in underground coal mining.

How is the NIOSH Mining program addressing this problem?

Ground monitoring.

Ground monitoring.

 The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) is developing and applying ground monitoring methods in a variety of mines with a current focus on monitoring ground in deep coal mines. Roof monitors can provide information related to roof rock stability where geologic discontinuities or weaknesses exist in the mine roof. Over time, monitoring provides the operator with a history of the stability of the mine opening, allowing for the installation of additional support where needed or the removal of personnel and equipment from potentially hazardous situations.

What are the significant findings?

OMSHR has been involved in the research and development of several significant ground monitoring systems. Most recently, OMSHR research has led to a permissible miniaturized data logging system that is now licensed for commercial production and a seismic monitoring system in deep coal mines.

What are the next steps?

Ongoing work is focusing on monitoring the ground response to the mining of coal at depth including ground pressures, displacements, and seismicity.

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