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CONTOUR MINING

Conventional Contour Strip Mining: Mine 1 has


been characterized throughout the years by its widespread
use of contour strip mining, Fig. 22A. In contour
stripping, an initial cut is established along the
hillside at the point where the coal outcrops. Successive
cuts are made into the hill, discontinuing the operation
at a specific stripping ratio, either economic or technological.
Depending on thickness, continuity, slope, and
quality of the coal seam, type and conditions of overburden,
size of mine area, and the return per ton of
coal mined, this ratio can be as much as 30:1 and
still provide a profitable operation using this mining
technique.

Contour stripping affects a large area, especially


on the downslope side. Not only is the overburden
indiscriminately cast over the side of the hill but explosive casting is commonly employed in which holes are
drilled on close spacing and heavily charged to heave
as much as 50% of the material out of the pit and
down the slope. Since the overburden contains highly
toxic materials, severe environmental mine drainage
problems are created; mudslides and other erosion produced
are not conducive to establishing vegetation on
the slopes. The unstable highwall that is left behind
creates further erosion and ponution problems. Therefore,
because of the severe environmental degradation
resulting from this method, both temporarily and permanently,
it has been outlawed in virtually all states
and will have little future application.
Contour stripping primarily utilizes the unit operations
of clearing and grubbing, overburden preparation,
overburden removal, coal loading, coal hauling,
augering, regrading and back filling, and revegetation

The proposed affected area is usually cleared of


vegetation by timbering and/or removal with dozers.
Dozers push this material downslope to the projected
toe of the spoil pile to create a brush dam (drainage ditch, or waterway to counteract erosion
by reducing water flow velocity.) which helps
to establish the spoil bank of dirt and sediment. This unit operation is not always necessary, and in some
instances it is eliminated and all vegetation is simply
buried in the spoil during overburden removal. The
overburden is prepared by either drilling and blasting
with ANFO or by ripping. Both bulldozers and frontend
loaders are used for stripping. Coal loading usually
is accomplished by the same loader used in the stripping
process. However, when the coal is too hard or
too thick for effective front-end loader use, shovels
are employed as a substitute provided the underclay
can support them. The coal is either ripped or blasted
prior to haulage with small-capacity 14 to 27 t (15
to 30 ton), on-the-road-type trucks, usually end-dump.
Box-Cut Contour Mining: While this method providesfor spoiling overburden on the outslopes, Fig, 26, important
differences from conventional contour
stripping result in better environmental control, although
problems will exist. A major difference is that
a coal barrier 4.6 to 7.6 m (15 to 25 ft) thick must
be left at the outcrop, depending upon the state law.
This barrier confines the water to the pit and prevents
its flow through the spoil area which would result in
landslides and acid drainage problems. Also, equipment
differs, draglines and shovels being much more
adaptable to providing the required coal barrier rather
than dozers and front-end loaders. While this method
will also be obsolete soon,

Blasting must be carefully controlled to avoid fracturing


the low-wall barrier, with dozer ripping substituted
whenever possible. A typical two-cut sequence
is shown in Fig. 27. The upper material in the cut
next to the final high wall is cast on the outslope as
shown, graded, and revegetated as the first step. This
material is probably more conducive to revegetation
and less likely to contain acid-bearing materials. In
the second step, the material in the lower part of this
cut is cast on to the coal berm, uncovering the coal
in the first cut which can subsequently be mined. From
this point on, parallel cuts can be taken into the hillside,
casting overburden into the previously mined area until
some practical strip limit is reached. Steps 3 and 4
in Fig. 27 show how the pit is completed for two cuts
only. As can be seen, part of the coal covered in the
second step is uncovered and mined with the excess
spoil from the second pit that is left after spoil has
been piled against the highwall (3rd step) being placed
back into the pit, (4th step).
While the carefully placed materials on the downslope
create fewer environmental problems than conventional
contour stripping, such problems do occur
with any downslope disposal technique. Thus this is
proving to be an unacceptable practice, too.
Modified Area Mining: While this technique resembles
the mountaintop removal method inasmuch as hilltop or ridge removal is accomplished,
it is practiced in rolling terrain rather than
on steeply sloping mountains, Fig. 29. It is especially
adaptable to abandoned contour strippings that previously
had reached the upper economic strip ratio. Not
only are these orphan strip pits reclaimed, but the
abandoned benches provide excellent storage areas for
initial box-cut spoil.

First- and second-cut topsoil is removed by pan


scrapers and stored on stockpiles for final cut reclama tion.
Topsoil from third and successive cuts is removed
and placed directly on regraded spoil areas, thereby
combining topsoil segregation and reclamation in a
single operation. Initial box cuts are made near the
point of a ridge or hill, or wherever first-cut spoil can
be stored with minimal environmental effects. Draglines
or shovels ranging in size up to 34 m' (45 cu
yds) are the primary stripping machines, but draglines
are more common since they can dig through hills
and more easily spoil the material with their larger
casting radius as well as provide better segregation
of spoil material.

Advantages of modified area mining include: ( I)


nearly 100% of the coal is recovered; (2) segregation
and burial of toxic overburden material is easily accomplished
with the draglines normally used; (3) there
are the side benefits of reclaiming abandoned pits; (4)
reclamation is carried on concurrently with mining;
(5) regrading is done to nearly original contour; and
(6) there is high production protential. Disadvantages
include: (I) the initial cut must be stored for future
use, and (2) complete disruption of hilltop rock strata
can affect ground-water movement.

Pollution Control: As can be seen in Fig. 30, the


use of diversion ditches, sediment retention structures,
and neutralization facilities in this region are similar
to that in contour mining.

Pit collection sumps are excavated


in the strata beneath the coal seam at the lowest point
in the pit to collect ground water and/or surface runoff
which is automatically pumped via pipeline to neutralization
and sedimentation facilities

Block-Area Mining: Block-area mining is a compromise


between modified block-cut mining and modified
area mining inasmuch as it employs the equipment
used in the former but applies to natural conditions
more common to the latter. It utilizes dozers and frontend
loaders in overburdens of up to a maximum of
12 m (40 ft), Fig. 30. An initial block cut (No.1 in
Fig. 31A) is established by dozing or carrying the overburden
material to a temporary storage area adjacent
to the cut, Fig. 3lB, burying toxic materials. Similar
cuts are made in sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc., along
the direction normal to mine development. After the
coal is loaded, which is done immediately after the
blocks are exposed, the overburden from successive
cuts 7, 8, 9, 10, etc., is pushed into the mined-out
area, with reclamation being accomplished concurrently.
Variations in cut sequence can be many; one
alternate scheme is shown by the numbers in parentheses
in Fig. 3lA.

The advantages of block-area mining include: (I)


it makes recovery of very thin seams economical; (2)
reduction of pollution potential by burial of toxic material,
concurrent regrading, and reclamation are accomplished;
(3) minimal capital outlay for equipment is
required; (4) production costs are low; (5) original contour
is easily obtained; and (6) breakdown of one machine
cannot stop operations. Disadvantages include:
(I) storage of initial block cuts until back filling of
final pits could be a problem, and (2) depending upon
the block sequence used, water handling and coal hauling
routes could also become problems
Pan Scraper - is a piece of heavy equipment used for earthmoving. The rear part of the scraper has
a vertically moveable hopper with a sharp horizontal front edge which can be raised or lowered. The
front edge cuts into the soil, like a carpenter's plane cutting wood, and fills the hopper. When the
hopper is full it is raised, closed, and the scraper can transport its load to the fill area where it is
dumped.