Mining Publication: Coal Mine Geology in the U.S. Coal Fields: a State-of-the-art
During the past quarter century, coal mine geologists have evolved from providing a qualitative description of drill core and coal reserves into quantitative geotechnical specialists who bridge the gap between geology and engineering. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, hazard prediction mapping was in its infancy. At best, hazard maps identified rudimentary structures and conditions such as stream valley locations, sandstone/shale transition zones, and lineaments. A "technical disconnect" had existed between geologists and mining engineers as each profession operated largely independent of each other. Engineers did not readily integrate geology and geologic conditions, with the exception of coal thickness, into mine planning. Geologists were relied upon for reserve estimates and did not participate in mine planning or design. The employment and market slump of the 1980's and 1990's combined with mining more challenging reserves mandated that this gap be bridged and forced geologists to learn to speak more "numerically" to engineers so they could be understood. The purpose of this paper is to describe the procedures and thought processes used by coal mine geologists when determining various mineability and reserve extraction feasibility issues. The paper will also address underground geologic hazard mapping and prediction techniques. To achieve these objectives, the opinions and experiences of leading coal mine geologists, geotechnical and strata control specialists across the United States were solicited.