Conventional Coal Mine visit in Kentucky – quite an experience!
I have been visiting underground coal mines quite frequently for last few months. Most of the deep mines I have visited so far are in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. Till my last visit, I only experienced deep mines with continuous miner. They usually have pretty good miming height to move the equipments. I am glad that all previous mines had more than 6 feet mining height and I never had to crawl. Last week I visited two conventional deep coal mine and one mine with continuous miner in Kentucky. All three of the mines are in Upper Elkhorn Coal seam. Upper Elk Coal seam is very consistent in this area but but very thick. In those conventional mines the average coal thickness was only about 3 feet. Sometimes you see places even less than 3 feet. I was there to check for rock partings in the coal seam and distinguish between good coal and boney coal within the seam. In the conventional coal mines they were mining just the coal seam and coal seam only!! No roof and No floor! So, the mining height was always remained equal to the coal seam thickness! We had to lie down in our little railroad cart (you can not even sit). We were glad that the mines did not have any “wet floor” conditions. However, we had pretty bad neck pain for next two days after we came back home. Here are the mines I visited last week:
All of the mines had good roof and floor conditions with minimum problems of rolls. Now it is time to show some cute pictures.
This picture is taken at the “current” portal to go to the working face of TRC conventional coal mine. You can probably see how narrow is the height of the portal is.
This picture is taken at the same mine but represents an old portal now sealed and possibly used for air circulation.
Here is one picture of old portal at Lexie conventional coal mine.
This picture was taken at the Clas4 mine, KY. You can see the portals – old and current as well as the roof and floor strata. I love this picture as it shows a shale strata right above the coal seam up to a rider coal seam (possibly Upper Elkhorn-3 Rider) and then you have beautiful light brown hard sandstone.
This is just another picture to show you the great looking sandstone and the rider seam closely. Things I learned:
All 3 of the mines are “drift” mine ( Overburden thickness is too much for surface mine, but not too deep that will require a shaft).
There are still some conventional mines present in United States where we have “ZERO” out of seam dilution (as they do not mine any roof or floor)!
Expect very low mining heights in conventional coal mines. In our case mining height = coal seam thickness.
Remember to take your KNEE PAD!! You will have to crawl …so, don’t forget your knee protection.
For the Clas4 mine, the minimum mining height was 52 inches (what a relief) as they use continuous miner.
Bonus: A small video clip of stockpile generation at TRC Mine, KY