The U.S. Bureau of Mines is investigating the application of state-of-the-art computer technology to improve coal extraction. The opportunity to remove workers from high-risk areas offers attractive health and safety benefits as well as reductions in delay time. Studies include improved remote control of continuous miners, the development of fundamental technologies such as vertical guidance of cutting operations, navigation of the continuous miner, and the application of expert systems to aid in diagnoses of equipment problems and in the planning of face operations. The Bureau has elected to evaluate these techniques on a continuous miner. While the contribution of longwall mining to underground production continues to grow, room-and-pillar systems for production and for longwall panel development are and will remain essential components of underground operations.
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