Mining Publication: Current Trends in Reducing Ground Fall Accidents in US Coal Mines
Ground falls (roof and rib) have historically been responsible for about 50% of all fatalities in bituminous underground coal mines. In some recent years, the number of ground fall fatalities has approached zero, indicating that significant progress has been made. On the other hand, last year's Crandall Canyon twin mine disasters, in which 9 miners perished in violent coal bumps, provided a stark reminder that complacency is premature. One important success has been a great reduction in the number of miners killed inby roof supports. Throughout the 1990's these accounted for nearly half of all roof fall fatalities, but there have just been two inby incidents in the past 5 years. Progress has also been made in pillar recovery. Safer mining technologies have reduced the number of fatal incidents, but some recent failures have underlined the need for careful management of the retreat mining process. On the other hand, more than 400 miners continue to be injured each year by rock falling from between supports, and 100 more are injured by rib falls. Together, these two categories also account for a large percentage of recent ground fall fatalities. Available technologies such as roof screen, rib bolting, and inside control roof bolters could dramatically reduce injury and fatality rates if they were used more widely. Further advances in these areas will likely be the next big advance in ground control safety.