Mining Project: Geologic Parameters for Identifying Areas of Increased Methane and Mining-induced Seismicity at Deep Coal Mines

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Principal Investigators
Start Date 10/1/2022
End Date 9/30/2023

This pilot project was a one-year effort to evaluate the geological variables linked to high methane concentrations and increased mining-induced seismicity in underground coal mines. The project determined what lithological and mining conditions led to higher methane production at a case study site in 2020 and created a map to highlight where higher methane concentrations could exist within the future mining area. This project assessed geological and mining conditions that led to anomalous seismic events in 2016 at the case study site to help develop methodologies for generating seismic potential maps for underground coal mines. Both high methane and seismic activity may create possible hazardous mining conditions that could be avoided if early warning methods could alert miners prior to mining certain areas.

Topic Area

Research Summary


The research combined field studies, numerical modeling, and data analysis. Research was conducted in various areas of the Buchanan mine, Virginia, where excess methane production and destructive seismic activities have been experienced. To understand conditions leading to high methane concentrations, areas with excess methane production were compared to areas with standard methane production to determine their geological differences.

Seismicity was modeled in panels that had relatively low and high levels of seismic activities to calibrate the model response to seismic hazard against historic seismic data. The models were compared geologically to determine the lithology differences that led to a panel being high or low in relation to seismic risk.

Milestones and Accomplishments

Description Audience Year
Constructed a 3DEC model and evaluated the seismic potential results of new panel designs. Academia and mine managers 2023
Produced a model with calibrated parameters capable of distinguishing areas of low potential from high potential in relation to seismic hazard. Academia and mine managers 2023

Impacts and Outcomes

This pilot project examined the geological conditions of the high methane area of the Buchanan mine and compared these conditions to other areas that had not experienced such high methane production. From this data, a map can be produced to indicate other possible areas of high methane production in future mining areas. From historic seismic data, methodologies and numerical models were generated to replicate the seismic potentials in previous districts. The methodologies and calibrated models can be used to develop seismic forecasting map for different mine layouts. The findings for assessing high-methane-concentration and high-seismic-activity conditions may potentially be applied to mines with similar geology such as longwall mines in Alabama and Utah, but further research is required for generalizing the developed methodologies to various geology and mining conditions.


Outputs were in the form of peer-reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, and technical presentations related to creating the framework for developing a seismic forecasting map for the underground coal mine.

Supporting Visual

NIOSH employees operating a high-definition borescope to record the lithology in the mine roof prior to installing a roof extensometer.

NIOSH employees operating a high-definition borescope to record the lithology in the mine roof prior to installing a roof extensometer.

Page last reviewed: January 16, 2024
Page last updated: January 16, 2024