Improved Mine Productivity and Resource Optimization

2022-11-18

Summary:The development of advanced technologies, such as thin-seam underground mining technology or dry processing methods for western surface-mined coals, will presen

The development of advanced technologies, such as thin-seam underground mining technology or dry processing methods for western surface-mined coals, will present opportunities to recover a significant portion of potentially recoverable coal that currently is not extracted and may be permanently lost. In situ extraction or utilization methods, while they have not found broad application in the past, may become attractive as more easily mined reserves are exhausted. Many advanced mining technologies with the potential to reduce mine hazards, such as remote sensing, continuous monitoring at the mine face, remote control, and autonomous systems, also have the potential to increase production and productivity and improve resource recovery. 

Small percentage increases in coal recovery through improved coal preparation processes and improved mining methods, perhaps including in situ extraction, have the potential to significantly expand economically recoverable reserves coals. The development of these technologies, increasingly needed as coal reserve quality decreases over time, will help to maximize utilization of the nation’s coal resource.

Recommendation: There should be renewed support for advanced coal mining and processing research and development to optimize use of the nation’s coal resources by increasing the amount of coal that is economically minable through technological advances that accommodate health, safety, and environmental requirements. The focus of this R&D should be on increased integration of modern technology in the extraction and processing phases of coal production, with particular emphasis on emerging advances in materials, sensors, and controls; monitoring; and automated mining systems.

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