The Bureau of Mines is conducting research aimed at providing technology for a low-cost, high-recovery, environmentally acceptable mining system to recover the vast thin-seam coal reserves existing in the mountainous areas of the Appalachian region. Approximately 1 trillion st of U.S. coal resources are located in seams 14 to 28 in thick; however, less than 5 pct of U.S. coal production comes from these resources. Approximately 40 pct of the minable coal reserves in appalachia exist in 28- to 42-in-thick seams. These thin coal seams represent a huge energy resource left largely untapped, owing mainly to unavailable technology for commercial exploitation. In past decades, only a very small part of these reserves were exploited, with mining conducted along the contour of the mountain ridge, where the coal seam cropped out and was easy to reach. This type of contour strip mining removed only a small fraction of the total coal reserve on the mining property and scarred the landscape with highwalls for future generations. A variety of conceptual approaches are outlined and discussed to mine the mountaintop coal reserves with near-total recovery, at low cost with minimal environmental impact to the surrounding area. A successful approach in mining these thin-seam reserves will lower the overall cost of coal produced in the United States, and create a more competitive price for U.S. coal in international markets.
Proc. 1988 Symp. on Min., Hydrol., Sedimentol., and Reclamat., Dec. 5-9, 1988, PP. 41-46