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High Wall Mining Technology

Highwall Mining is a remotely controlled mining method, which extracts coal from
the face of a coal seam under a highwall in a surface mine, which has reached the final
highwall position due to uneconomic stripping ratios Or due to local constraints which
limit further surface mining. The coal left in the High wall can be extracted by this
technology which otherwise would be lost for ever. SCCL is the 1st company
implementing this technology in India. This method relies upon the self supporting
capacity of the strata above the series of parallel entries driven mechanically to a
considerable depth without artificial roof support and ventilation in the seam horizon.
This technology provides an economical way to extract coal reserves locked up in the
highwall. The extent of an opencast project is limited by the financial viability, though
coal seam continues to exist beyond the quarry limits. Non-replenishable coal is
getting lost forever within the highwalls of the opencast projects. This technology is
being practiced in USA, Australia and Indonesia. Limiting gradient – 1 in 3.5 and
maximum penetrating depth (in level gradient) is around 500 m.
Highwall mining is a method of mining that originated from auger mining. The
method differs in that continuous miners, rather than augers, are used to bore an entry
adjacent to the coal seam of a highwall left behind in an open pit mine after
excavation has been completed. Screw conveyors positioned behind the continuous
miner haul the cut coal from deep within the seam up to an outside stockpiling area
where it is then transported away. Another primary difference in a highwall mining
operation is that it is carried out by remote control at the surface where an operator
located in a cabin uses a television camera to monitor and control the progress of the
continuous miner machine
When the cost of excavating an open-pit mine is no longer economically feasible,
highwall mining may be deployed before the entire operation is taken underground.
The economics of open-pit mining are often determined by stripping ratio. When the
cost associated with removing overburden surpasses the actual value of the coal
exposed in stripping or excavation, a mine may choose another method of mining the
coal, such as highwall mining or taking the mining operation underground.

Highwall mining as a first option presents many advantages to underground mining

because it is more cost-effective and involves less lead-time.The process of mining a
highwall with continuous miners is proven to also be much safer since operations are
carried out exclusively by remote control and require fewer personnel than
underground mining. Highwall mining at the surface produces the same amount of
output as mining underground might. With highwall mining, smaller blocks of coal
can also be accessed and operations are facilitated around geological impediments or
structures that otherwise impinge upon coal production.
The process begins with coal being extracted from a reserve situated well beyond the
reach of conventional surface mining methods. A standard highwall miner or mining
system (HWM) involves boring usually a rectangular shaped entry or section out of an
exposed highwall seam by remote control. Advanced highwall mining systems
hydraulically-powered tracked mobile units with electric drive.
The first HWM units that could mine parallel entries of a coal seams with a thickness
ranging from 30 inches (76 cm) to 16 feet (5 m) to pre-determined depths of up to
1,000 feet (305 m).
A cutterhead attached to a powerhead assembly with 20-foot (6-m) pushbeams is used
to penetrate and bore into the coal seam. The mined coal is then transported back to
the machine by two counter-rotating screw conveyors positioned inside the
pushbeams. The conveyors feature a coupling system that allows each auger to drive
the next auger.
The system is highly efficient, with the capability of producing an output of 40,000 to
120,000 tons of coal per month, depending on the height of the actual coal seam.
Another benefit of the system is that it is designed to handle even wet coal together
with high water-inflow and work with laser gyro guiding systems.
Equipment Used
Cutter head
A cutter head is a large wheel-shaped device mounted on the front end of a highwall
miner or tunnel boring machine that cuts through rock and soft ground. When
operated, the cutter head rotates with a lot of power and force to cut away at rock. The
cutter head is usually attached to the main body or shield of a highwall miner using
specially designed bearings. The motor that rotates the cutter head is located directly
inside the shield. Also located within the shield, is the thrust cylinder that supplies the
forward thrust on the cutting discs. Hydraulic cylinders force the cutter discs into the
rock face; the harder the rock, the more thrust is needed to break or fragment it.
Screw Conveyor
A screw conveyor, also known as a screw elevator, is a type of a positive
displacement pump used primarily in agriculture, mining, construction, and
manufacturing to move and meter fluids and granular materials.
Screw conveyors operate on the same basic principle exemplified by Archimedes’
Screw, which was invented in the 3rd century B.C. Archimedes determined that a
rotating auger fitted snugly within a cylinder could elevate water effectively. With the
bottom of the screw submerged in water, the screw rotation lifts the lowest level of
water to the second tier, which forces new water to flow into the now vacant bottom
level. Each subsequent rotation draws in more water while elevating previous loads
within the cylinder body until eventually water emerges from the top. The same
principle is used today to supply aggregate to asphalt pavers, to expel grain from
combines, and to break-up snow in a snow blower.
Screw conveyors can be operated vertically, horizontally, or at an angle; although they
are less efficient on an angle. A conveyor on a 25-inch (63.5-cm) incline will lose 50
percent of its carrying capacity.