Mining Publication: Evaluation of Pillar Recovery in Southern West Virginia
Pillar recovery continues to be a significant ground control hazard. During the past decade, 10 miners were killed during pillar extraction operations in southern West Virginia. Studies conducted during the past decade have identified a number of "risk factors" that can be used to evaluate pillar extraction plans: Cut sequence, final stump, timber or mobile roof supports, roof bolting, intersection span, depth of cover, roof quality, age of workings, For each of these factors, rock mechanics science suggests which alternative would be expected to be more risky. For example, numerical models were used to evaluate different cut sequences, and indicated that less roof convergence occurred with the outside lift method than with the Christmas tree in the particular environment simulated. For many of the risk factors, accident statistics confirm the science. One finding was that currently almost 70% of the retreat coal in southern WV is being mined with MRS. In contrast, timber supports were used in 70% of the past decade's pillaring fatalities. This paper discusses each of the risk factors in turn, presents the relevant accident statistics, and shows how the risk factors can be combined to estimate the overall hazard. It also addresses the use of pillar design to minimize the risk of global stability hazards including squeezes, massive collapses, and bumps.