Tag Archives: coal mining

NSW to help coal miners experiment with new explosives at underground test facility

Australia’s only independent underground mine explosives testing facility has opened on the New South Wales Central Coast, paving the way for improvements in mine safety and innovation in the mining industry.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro (pictured), launched the first round of explosive testing at the new facility at Freeman’s Waterhole, which will operate under the management of the Mine Safety Technology Centre within the NSW Resources Regulator.

Barilaro said the facility is made from high-grade steel and concrete with modifications to reduce sound impacts and provides an appropriate location to test the safety of explosives made within the state, for use in underground coal mining operations.

“This will be the only independent explosives testing facility of its kind in Australia, making New South Wales the nation’s leader in mine safety development,” he said.

“Currently, there are few explosives that can be used in underground coal mines and these kinds of explosives have a very short shelf life, they don’t travel well and need to be developed and tested locally.

“Under the control of the NSW Resources Regulator’s Mine Safety Technology Centre, this facility will be used to determine if locally made explosives are viable and meet vital safety requirements to protect the wellbeing of workers.”

Barilaro said when used safely, explosives can significantly improve the productivity of underground mines by reducing the number of time-consuming and labour-intensive longwall moves required to extract coal, increasing the overall volume of coal recovered.

“The industry benefits significantly from the use of explosives in underground mines and the facility launched today will allow greater testing, experimentation and innovation from local businesses that specialise in producing explosives for mines,” Barilaro said.

“The facility is also discreet; it has been built on the site of a quarry to reduce impact on the surrounding environment and computer modelling has been used to determine the most effective ways to reduce noise.”

Test rounds at the facility will be scheduled to meet the needs of industry, at up to two to three times per year, restricted to work hours on weekdays, the government said.

Mining3’s ‘Top of Coal’ tech heads for commercialisation with CR Digital pact

Mining3’s “Top of Coal” technology is heading for commercialisation after the company signed an agreement with CR Digital for the next phase of the innovation’s development.

The announcement comes on the back of promising new results delivered from the most recent trial in the Bowen Basin of Queensland, where the technology was tested over 12 weeks and collected downhole data from over 250-plus boreholes, the companies said.

“Accurately detecting the approaching top of a coal seam prior to blasting is fundamental to efficient coal recovery,” Mining3 and CR Digital said. “During the extraction stage, a significant percentage (up to 12%) of overall coal loss is attributable to blast damage and coal dilution, which then makes it difficult to separate the coal cleanly from the waste during both overburden excavation and coal processing. By eliminating the damage done to the top of seam, substantial increases in recovery are enabled.”

With support from ACARP, Mining3 has been developing a measurement while drilling (MWD) system that detects the top of a coal seam while routinely drilling blast holes.

During the drilling process, the detection system uses resistance measurements ahead of the drill bit to detect approaching coal in real time. This method of detecting “Top of Coal” brings significant benefits to surface mining operations, Mining3 says, including:

  • Providing a reliable indication of the approach to “Top of Coal” that will enable drilling to be stopped before touching coal or at a minimum standoff distance;
  • Increase production by reducing damage to coal from blasting; and
  • Strata recognition and mapping during routine blasthole drilling.

The system can also be retro fitted to a standard rotary air blast drill rig.

CR Digital, part of the global CR Group, is now working with Mining3 on the commercialisation of the technology, and the integration of the Top of Coal technology into its technology portfolio.

Together, CR Digital and Mining3 see potential for the technology to be an extension to the Thunderbird 1110 and StrataSense products within the CR Digital portfolio.

“Collectively, this agnostic range can be retrofitted to any rotary air blast drill rig and is intended to build on the StrataSense capability of CR Digital, to compile a three-dimensional understanding of the bench and coal seam in real time,” the companies said.

Komatsu Gunnedah expands on local coal mining demand

Komatsu Australia’s Gunnedah Branch in regional New South Wales has relocated to a new facility as it looks to cope with increased demand for its products from the local coal mining sector.

Komatsu Gunnedah had originally supported regional construction customers, yet, with the opening of coal mining north-west of Gunnedah and the sale of mining trucks, dozers and loaders, the requirements of the small branch rapidly increased, the company said.

For several months, the Gunnedah team had been looking for a suitable premise to support the increased demand and, on May 18, it moved into the new branch at 34 Allgayer Drive, Gunnedah, NSW 2380.

The new facility is “far beyond the ‘old branch’ in many ways”, Gunnedah Branch Manager, Peter Phillips, said.

“The office area is spacious as is the parts warehouse,” he said. “The parts warehouse is professionally laid out, including the mezzanine area set up for filter storage in racking.”

The workshop provides ample room to repair machines indoors and the yard access for transporting vehicles is substantial, according to the company. While the showroom is currently empty, moving forward, the branch plans to display construction machines for sale along with rental units in the dedicated space.

This move uplifts the profile of Komatsu Gunnedah in the region, according to Phillips.

“Our focus it to maintain this with our customers and promote Komatsu to be the place to visit as supplier of choice,” he said.

“To all from the branch who worked tirelessly with the move and in the Komatsu spirit, also the Mining Service Manager for support over the weekend of the move – thank you.”

Strata Worldwide’s MC2 certified for underground coal mine use

Strata Worldwide says its StrataConnect second-edition Miner Communicator (MC2) has won IECEx Intrinsically Safe approval, paving the way for it to be used in underground coal mines.

The StrataConnect MC2 (Part No SCT-MC2-03) is an underground personnel communication and location tracking device that operates on the StrataConnect™ wireless mesh network – formally known as Strata CommTrac. Released last year, the unit is designed specifically for harsh underground environments and provides personnel with two-way text communications, real-time location tracking, and both critical alert and response functions, the company says.

Communication messages include peer-to-peer or group texting and can be sent between units underground or to the user interface at the surface. Users have access to a full employee contact list and the ability to create personalised groups, while a full, hard-button QWERTY keyboard and large display screen facilitate fast and easy message reading and response, the company says.

“Miner location tracking is continuously active,” Strata said. “The units ping nearby communication nodes every 60 seconds for monitoring both location and direction of travel. Personnel can utilise the MC2 to locate fellow workers underground.”

The MC2, which is automatically functional on all StrataConnect wireless networks, is worn in a pouch on the user’s belt. Green LEDs on all four corners indicate the receipt of incoming messages, while red LEDs indicate an emergency notification. The device can also be used to send emergency alerts to dispatch if immediate assistance is needed.

Strata says battery life ranges between 24 and 48 hours, depending on use. Recharging takes around four hours, including the automatic update of contact lists which are done at this time.

CSIRO maps out laser scanning solution for underground coal mines

New real-time underground 3D mapping technology developed by CSIRO can be used to locate, steer and navigate equipment and vehicles in volatile, methane-rich underground environments, according to Australia’s national science agency.

ExScan technology, being trialled by Glencore, as well as five other mining companies, has a laser scanner and associated software capable of generating real time 3D maps of tunnels, walls and cavities underground where global positioning system (GPS) cannot penetrate. These maps can be used for locating, steering and navigating equipment and vehicles.

Arguably, the real innovation in CSIRO’s new underground mapping technology is not the smart laser-based scanner, but the container in which it sits, CSIRO said.

“The enclosure has been certified to International Electrotechnical Commission ‘Ex d’ standards for use in volatile, methane-rich underground environments such as coal mines,” the agency said.

“That means it has been designed to prevent the electronic equipment it houses sparking an explosion.”

CSIRO Electronic Engineer and ExScan Project Lead, Peter Reid, said: “Nothing can go underground in a coal mine unless it’s certified to be in that environment. You can’t even take an aluminium can; it’s a potential spark hazard if it gets crushed by a vehicle. So getting electronics down there is a tricky process.”

The problem is that explosive gases such as methane penetrate equipment and any failure of electronics that causes a spark could lead to a fiery disaster.

The solution outlined in the Ex d regulation is not to contain explosions, but to prevent them from happening in the first place. That’s achieved by designing the container to ensure any spark would have to travel such a long way to encounter sufficient gas to trigger an explosion and, by that time, it will have cooled below the ignition point, CSIRO said.

Looking to longwalls

Many members of CSIRO’s ExScan development team spent years working with industry on the Australian Coal Association Research Program-funded project that developed the successful LASC longwall automation system.

A major driver behind automating coal mining is to remove people from the dusty, hazardous environment near the coal face, but even the LASC automated equipment occasionally needed hands on human measurement to guide it through trickier parts of the coal seams.

The idea behind ExScan was to provide images that could be used to make those measurements automatically, CSIRO said.

“This technology provides us with information that cameras on their own can’t,” Reid said. “It allows us to measure in 3D anything we see, as if we were there.”

The LASC ExScan is a 3D scanner, housed in an explosion-proof casing, that can map tunnels, voids and cavities in real-time underground.

What emerged looks a little like a 25 cm-high version of Star Wars character R2-D2 – with a steel base into which a polycarbonate dome screws, CSIRO said. The laser sits under the transparent dome and scans through it. To get outside into a volume of gas, any spark generated would have to work its way through a narrow sawtooth path formed by the screw thread and, in doing so, would lose most of its energy.

Should the scanner malfunction or the container become scratched or damaged, it can be swapped over in a matter of minutes, because the dome just screws off, CSIRO explained.

The team invested a lot of time in computer modelling to come up with a dome that was just right for injection moulding. That makes the ExScan devices relatively inexpensive to manufacture, according to CSIRO.

“In fact, they are affordable enough for a line of 40 or 50 to sit behind the mining equipment along a longwall face of between 400 and 500 m in length, providing real time updates of the condition of the wall,” it said. “At 10 metres apart, the devices are close enough to allow redundancy – their scans overlap, which means that if one fails, its absence can be covered by others on either side to ensure overall reliability.”

Removing people from the coal face

According to Glencore Technology Superintendent at Oaky North mine, in central Queensland, Lauris Hemmings, the images they generate can be used to determine and sort out coal flow blockages on the conveyor system under the shearing equipment and to help align and steer the shearers themselves.

“It’s a fantastic tool,” Hemmings said, “an ever-evolving piece of equipment that takes risk management to even higher levels.”

The mine is already hoping ExScan can be used to navigate the higher risk areas of the mine, taking employees away from the coal face.

But the applications are broader. The scanners can be mounted in any orientation – even upside down – and on moving machinery and vehicles. This means they can be used to map whole mines, and potentially for vehicle navigation, CSIRO said.

The containers themselves can be employed for other electronic purposes, such as housing camera systems, and are already being marketed separately by Eaton Industries.

In addition to Glencore, the LASC ExScan system is being trialled by five other Australian mining companies, as well as by companies overseas.

“The Chinese coal industry has become so interested that it has invested the resources for a couple of engineers to develop skills to deal with the large amount of data generated by the scanners,” CSIRO said. “The feedback from all this activity is allowing the CSIRO team to develop new features for the scanner.”

CSIRO is now determining next steps to commercialise the ExScan system.

Sandvik adds to underground coal loading and haulage line with LS312

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has launched the Sandvik LS312, a new 12-tonne capacity, heavy-duty flameproof underground LHD.

The LHD’s engine, a C7.1 mechanical engine with Tier II emission standard, has been developed into a new certified diesel engine system, which targets minimal emissions, maintenance and total cost of ownership, Sandvik says.

The LS312 is designed to meet the latest major international safety standards, including electronic diesel engine safety shutdown systems and roll-over and falling objects protection fitted as standard on all units. Significant improvements have also been made to operator cabin ergonomics and visibility to assist the safe and comfortable operation of the vehicles, the company said.

“This new LHD utility vehicle with Sandvik quick detachment system (QDS) provides a safe and efficient solution to meet the challenges of underground coal loading and hauling applications and reduces personnel exposure to harmful diesel emissions through use of Tier II engine and integrated exhaust aftertreatment systems,” Sandvik said. “Reduced consumables and up to 20% diesel fuel savings, as well as 15% reduction in service time due to improved maintainability, contribute to lower operating costs.”

Used in conjunction with Sandvik’s 57 t hydraulic assist roof support trailer, the LHD can help relocate larger longwall equipment, as well as a range of other QDS attachments, according to Sandvik.

Sandvik is also offering customers the possibility to upgrade and rebuild existing LS190 LHD fleets with the new C7.1 mechanical engine. Integration into other models, such as the LS170, is also planned in the near future, it said. This can be completed in conjunction with a rebuild or as a standalone upgrade package performed in one of its Sandvik OEM workshops.

Zane Swingler, Product Manager Flameproof Load and Haul, Mechanical Cutting Division, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, said: “Our new Sandvik LS312 flameproof underground loader is full of new innovations designed to improve safety, minimise emissions, increase productivity and lower your operating costs. We have combined feedback from customers and service personnel with our long history in underground coal LHDs to continually improve the product.”

CONSOL Energy wins NMA plaudits for safety initiatives

CONSOL Energy Inc has become the 10th mining company to be fully certified under the National Mining Association (NMA)’s CORESafety® initiative.

The certification, which aims for zero fatalities and a 50% reduction in rate of injuries within five years, is the culmination of a multi-step, multi-year process that requires dedication at every level of an organisation, according to Rich Nolan, NMA President and CEO.

“Safety is an area where complacency has no place and the CORESafety framework is an important tool to drive constant vigilance and awareness,” he said.

Jimmy Brock, President and CEO of CONSOL Energy, said it was a “tremendous” honour and testament to the work and dedication of its miners, to receive the certification.

“Safety is more than a core value at CONSOL Energy, it is a condition of employment and a way of life,” he said. “Reaching this milestone demonstrates our employees’ commitment to safety and our focus on continually integrating best-practices while embracing technology and innovation, as we strive towards an incident-free workplace.”

For over 10 years, CONSOL has operated under an “Absolute ZERO value system” based on the premise that having zero accidents is normal and that any accident is uncharacteristic and inconsistent with company values, according to the NMA.

Consol owns and operates the Pennsylvania Mining Complex and the Baltimore Marine Terminal, in addition to controlling over 1 billion tons (907 Mt) of undeveloped reserves, according to its website.

CORESafety’s approach to safety and health emphasises accident prevention and uses a risk-based management system anchored in leadership, management and assurance, the NMA says. The framework is designed to go beyond what is required by regulations, focusing on a goal of continuous improvement. Its objective is zero fatalities and a 50% reduction in mining’s injury rate within five years of implementation. In 2017, companies participating in the CORESafety system closed the year with zero fatalities across US operations.

CORESafety is a risk-based mine safety and health management system developed by NMA. The NMA said: “CORESafety participants agree to: commit to the CORESafety system; implement a functionally-equivalent version of the CORESafety safety and health management system; submit to NMA annual self-assessments of progress toward implementation of the CORESafety safety and health management system; and, if the company elects to become or maintain CORESafety certification, complete a thorough third-party assessment of its safety and health management system to verify that it is functionally equivalent to CORESafety and submit the assessment report to NMA.”

M&S Insurance and Safety Consultants Inc conducted the independent audit in September 2019.

Strata enhances North America roof support, ventilation offering with Burrell Mining pact

Strata Worldwide says it has signed a distribution agreement with Burrell Mining International for the promotion and distribution of the Burrell CAN® and Burrell Omega Block coal mining products to the North America mining market.

These products will be added to Strata’s line of secondary roof supports and ventilation product offerings, available immediately, the company said.

The CAN is a “yieldable secondary roof support” made from a confined core of cementitious composite encased in a cylindrical steel canister, Strata said. “When installed correctly, the CAN has never failed. Its flexible design can be engineered to meet mine-specific load conditions regardless of adverse roof or floor conditions, while the smooth steel skin of the CAN also improves ventilation by reducing air resistance in the mine entry,” the company added.

Omega Blocks for ventilation are specifically formulated building block, three times the size of regular concrete blocks, but significantly lighter in weight to help reduce labour and the installation process, according to Strata. The Omega Blocks are composed of non-toxic, incombustible materials that are fire resistant and impermeable to air. The blocks are fully MSHA approved and ideal for quick construction of underground ventilation stoppings, Strata said.

Bob Weil, President & CEO of Burrell Mining International, said: “Burrell’s reputation as an industry innovator with a history of quality products and excellent customer service makes our partnership with Strata Worldwide a great strategic fit. Working together, we can provide customers throughout North America with efficient and safer secondary roof support products for the mining industry.”

Mike Berube, President and CEO at Strata Worldwide, said: “We are very excited to enter this agreement with Burrell Mining. They are a premier supplier of secondary roof support for coal mining and have an excellent reputation in the industry. The CAN will be a strong addition to Strata’s line of roof support systems and with this agreement we will offer the most complete portfolio of roof support products on the market.”

Strata Worldwide has grown from a company focused on roof supports in underground coal operations, to service mines of all types, all sizes, all commodities and all locations. It says it develops advanced safety solutions for mines all over the world.

Burrell Mining International, meanwhile, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Burrell Group Inc, a family-owned company with business interests in mining products, insurance, real estate and technology. Burrell Mining International operates three plants in the US and two in Australia.

Multotec’s SX10 low density spiral opens up coal separation options

Multotec Gravity Division says its new SX10 low density spiral further extends the benefits this innovation offers in fine coal beneficiation, with the technology able to produce both thermal and coking coal on one spiral.

The Multotec SX10 low density spiral’s reduced cut point of 1.55 g/cm3 delivers considerable advantages over the cut points of between 1.6 and 1.8 g/cm3 typically achieved in the coal industry today, according to Multotec Technology Manager, Faan Bornman.

The result, he says, is cleaner coal with less waste being achieved in a single stage. This helps achieve savings on capital costs as no further spiral stages are required for cleaning down the line.

“The approach taken with the Multotec SX10 spiral is to remove the gangue, or mineral containing particles, from the trough in two off-takes,” Multotec said.

The first off-take removes ash, opening up the available separation surface of the spiral and allowing the remaining material to separate more easily. This separates clean coal from less-clean coal.

“The low density spiral is essentially a primary and secondary stage on one centre column,” Bornman said. “Rejects are discarded into the centre column and the remaining product is re-pulped before being sent to a secondary off-take.”

Facilitating the two off-takes is a longer spiral on the Multotec SX10. This increases the residence time and gives the particles sufficient time to separate, according to the company.

Depending on the setting of the product box splitters, this new spiral has the ability to produce both thermal coal and coking coal on one spiral, Multotec claimed. Bornman said this was proven through test work done in the US where the two offtakes enable the removal of most of the gangue leaving a middlings and cleaner coal products to be collected at the dart splitters.

Experimental work was carried out using coal from two South Africa collieries as well as doing site test work in the US. Promising results were obtained leading to the first order for Multotec SX10 spirals from a North America-based mine, it said.

Solar power up and floating at former coal mine in Anhui, China

China state-owned developer CECEP has completed a 70 MWp floating solar plant on a former coal mining area, in Anhui Province, China, following tests and monitoring, according to the company that supplied the plant.

France-based Ciel & Terre said the floating photovoltaic (PV) plant will mainly aim to improve the energy structure in the province and quality of the environment on site. Constructor China Energy Conservation Solar Technology Co and the engineering procurement and construction contractor China Energy Engineering Group Shanxi Electric Power Design Institute Co contributed to the build, the biggest floating solar plant in the world.

To connect the 70 MWp floating PV power generation project to the national grid, a brand new 18-km-long 110 V overhead line was built to optimise the transport of electricity.

Ciel & Terre said: “Behind the installation of this complex is the will to improve the energy structure of Anhui Province as well as the ecological environment quality of the Lianghuai mining subsidence area.

“In the meantime, the initiative enables the promotion of the development of the ‘floatovoltaic’ technology, which also preserves water bodies. It prevents them from algae proliferation and oxidation, and even conserves water sources by reducing evaporation.”

The floating solar plant covers an area of 1.4 km² and is expected to generate up to 77,693 MWh in its first year, according to Ciel & Terre. This represents the electricity consumption of some 20,910 households.

“Within 25 years, the solar farm should generate around 1.94 million MWh,” the company said, saying the project adds to another 32 MWp GCL floating PV plant it supplied in Anhui.

Headed by CECEP, the complex was built using the tried-and-tested Hydrelio® technology designed by Ciel & Terre.
Ciel & Terre said: “CECEP chose Ciel & Terre for this major project for three complementary main reasons: the 13-year experience of the company in the field, the broad portfolio of 140 projects worldwide and the characteristic reliability and bankability of the Hydrelio system.”

Through this technical system, the company contributed to the Chinese National Energy Agency’s aim to “bolster energy infrastructure and environmental quality”, Ciel & Terre said.

Central inverters integrating medium voltage transformers have been used on this project – they stand on the water and not on the banks – while concrete poles support the electrical installation.

The anchorage system was designed and installed under the supervision of Ciel & Terre China, a subsidiary of the French company. Overall, 1,500 helical anchors were used for the project and buried from 8-m to 15 m-depth to fit the configuration of the site.