Coal Mining

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The goal of coal mining is to remove coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and since the 1880s is widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United States, United Kingdom, and South Africa, a coal mine and its structures are a "colliery". In Australia, "colliery" generally refers to an underground coal mine. Most coal seams are too deep underground for opencast mining and require underground mining, which method currently accounts for about 60% of world coal production. The Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the 18th century, and later spread to continental Europe and North America, was based on the availability of coal to power steam engines. International trade expanded exponentially when coal-fed steam engines were built for the railways and steamships. The new mines that grew up in the 19th century depended on men and children to work long hours in often dangerous working conditions. Coal was mined in America in the early 18th century, and commercial mining started around 1730 in Midlothian, Virginia. Coal-cutting machines were invented in the 1880s. Before the invention, coal was mined from underground with a pick and shovel. Continuous mining utilizes a machine with a large rotating steel drum equipped with tungsten carbide teeth that scrape coal from the seam. Operating in a “room and pillar” system—where the mine is divided into a series of 20-to-30 foot (5–10 m) “rooms” or work areas cut into the coalbed—it can mine as much as five tons of coal a minute, more than a non-mechanised mine of the 1920s would produce in an entire day. Continuous miners account for about 45% of underground coal production. Conveyors transport the removed coal from the seam. Remote-controlled continuous miners are used to work in a variety of difficult seams and conditions, and robotic versions controlled by computers are becoming increasingly common. Continuous mining is truly a misnomer, as room and pillar coal mining is very cyclical. In the US, one can generally cut 20 ft (or a bit more with MSHA permission), after which, the face has to be serviced, before it can be advanced again. During servicing, the "continuous" miner moves to another face. Some continuous miners can bolt and dust the face (two major components of servicing) while cutting coal, while a trained crew may be able to advance ventilation, to truly earn the "continuous" label. However, very few mines are able to achieve it. Most continuous mining machines in use in the US lack the ability to bolt and dust. This may partly be because incorporation of bolting makes the machines wider, and therefore, less maneuverable. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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