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Coal seams can be mined both by underground

methods and surface mining methods depending on
certain conditions, e.g., thickness and dip of the
seam; depth of occurrence; the ratio of overburden to
coal, etc.

There are two basic underground coal mining

methods. They are i) bord and pillar method, and ii)
longwall method. Although the basic principles
remain the same, there could be many variants of
these two methods (Figure 5.1)
Combining the main features of both longwall and
bord and pillar methods, there is yet another method
of mining coal seams which is known as ‘shortwall
method’ of mining. It incorporates the advantages
and disadvantages of both bord and pillar and
longwall method.

In the UK, former USSR, former West Germany,

France and other European countries longwall
method of coal mining is the main method of mining.
In India, about 98% of underground output of coal is
obtained by bord and pillar method and barely about
2% by longwall methods. The other countries where
bord and pillar method predominates are Australia,
USA and South Africa.

However, due to various advantages associated with

longwall method, the present trend is to adopt
longwall method of mining even in those countries
also where bord and pillar method predominates.

Fundamentally, the bord and pillar method of mining

coal seams (Figure 5.2) involves the driving of a series
of narrow headings in the seam parallel to each other
and connected by cross headings so as to form pillars
for subsequent extraction, either partial or complete,
as geological conditions or necessity for supporting the
surface, may permit. Ideally, the pillars should be
square but they are sometimes rectangular or of
rhombus shape and the galleries surrounding the pillars
are invariably of square cross-section.
The bord and piliar method of mining is suited to
work flat coal seams of average thickness and at
shallow depths. Coal seams of 1.8 to 3 m thickness
are best Suited for this method, though the method
has been successful in thinner seams also down to a
thickness of 1.2 m and in thicker seams up to 4.8 m in
thickness. In seams with gradients of more than I in 4
difficulties are encountered In maneuvering
machines. Most of the bord and pillar method of coal
mining has been done in depth range less than 300 m
as at greater depths pillars experience crush.
However, in India in some cases the depth of mining by
bord and pillar method has been around 600 m,
though mining at such depths is beset with the
problems of strata control. Sometimes, low
strength of coal limits the depth to which bord and
pillar mining can be done. For example. in the
Rocky Mountain, Canada. room and pillar mining is
limited to a depth of 600 m (Jeremic, '1982).
Seams with bad roof and with high make of gas are
unsuitable for bord and pillar method of
mining. Also seams highly prone to spontaneous
heating should not be worked by bord and pillar

Bord and pillar method of coal mining offers many

advantages. The major advantages are:

•The area to be immediately worked is proved, and so

initial planning may be modified to
deal with faults and intrusions without serious loss of
•All roadways in the seam are supported by solid coal
for as long as they are required, instead
of being formed and maintained in the goaf. This results
in better and less costly supports.
•Unproductive labour is reduced by the elimination of the
packing of the goaf. In thick seams no ripping at all may be
necessary and in thinner seams less is required than in
unsettled ground. Moreover, the roadways seldom need
subsequent enlargement. As unproductive labour is reduced
to a minimum. a high OMS (output per manshift) is

•The system is not dependent upon the completion of

specific operations by the end of each shift. and the same
operations are continued from one working shift to the
next. Multiple shift getting with all its advantages is easily

•Bord and pillar workings attract more labour as the mining

operations are rather simpler.
The main disadvantages of bord and pillar method are:
1. The percentage of extraction is usually less than in
longwall mining in similar conditions.
2. The need for the constant flitting of machinery
from place to place.
3. Subsidence in relation to the surface cannot be
controlled effectively.
4. Strata control is not easy.
5. Ventilation is generally poor because of multiple
connections and large number of
ventilation stoppings which provide sources of
6. Risk of spontaneous heating is more.
Variants of Bord and Pillar Method

Some other variants of bord and pillar method of

mining coal seams are known as room and
pillar. pillar and stall. chamber and pillar. breast and
pillar. post and stall, etc. The basic principles
of their design. however. remain almost the same.

Room and pillar method is quite popular in American

mining practice and is generally applicable for working
thinner coal beds 0.9-1.2 m thick.
Pillar and Stall Mining
Rooms are generally constructed as wide as
possible consistent with the stability
characteristic of the roof; common width being
4.5-7.5 m and the pillars left between the
rooms may be 6-12 m wide and 12-27.4 m
long. The rooms are usually supported by roof
bolts. The pillars may or may not be extracted.
When the pillars are not extracted, their width
is substantially reduced so that the percentage
recovery is increased.
Figure 5.3 shows the layout of a district developed on room and pillar method.
The advantages of this method are:

1. High degree of flexibility

2. Improved efficiency in working of thinner seams
3. No costly equipment and elaborate arrangements are
needed as would be necessary
in long wall mining
4. As compared to 'conventional bord and pillar method
higher OMS and reduced cost per tonne of coal are
obtained in certain conditions.
5. Mechanisation is simple and comparatively more
6. Efficiency of blasting is high
The disadvantages of the room and pillar method are:

1. If the strata are not competent, roof falls may take

place in the rooms
2. If the ribs are left In the goaf deliberately, they may
crush and be the cause of
spontaneous heating
3. Ventilation is difficult, clearance of fumes and
suppression of airborne dust may create problems

4. In gassy mines, methane layering may take place

due to wider galleries and reduced
velocity of ventilating air.

Of late, the high productivity and production associated

with longwall method of mining has
made this method the most popular method of mining.
Even in countries where longwall method
of mining was not in practice, the current trend is
towards adopting this method of mining.

The longwall method of mining coal involves the

extraction of the panel of coal to be
worked by advancing the face forward (in the case of
advancing longwall)
on a wide front leaving behind the roadways serving it
which are supported by packs of stone or other packings
in the area of extraction (Figure 5.4).

In the case of retreating longwall (Figure 5.5) the face is

retreated on the roadways driven before opening out the
face and as the face is retreated backwards, the goaf is
allowed to cave in or it is filled and the gate roadway is
lost in the goaf. This method can be employed almost in
all geological conditions, though it is eminently suited
for working thinner seams, ie., seams less than 1.8 m
On the lower side, seams of up to
30-35 cm thickness have been worked by this method.
Coal from a longwall. especially in a thin
seam, is the cheapest coal a mine can produce.

It is also desirable that thick seams (more than

4.8 m) be worked by this method in slices of 2 to 3 m. It
can be practised in seams at depth and
also in gassy seams or seams prone to spontaneous
The longwall mining finds easy application in flat to
gently inclined seams say up to I in 3. In steeper seams
faces must be arranged at an angle to the true dip or on
strike depending on circumstances.

Coal seams with soft coals may be worked by longwall

methods as pillars in bord and pillar
mining may crush. Also seams with dirt bands can be
worked by longwall method and the dirt
can be disposed of and stowed in the goaf.
In some seams floors have a tendency to creep and
in such cases bord and pillar method is not suitable
but longwall method can be employed as by good
quality packing the tendency of the floor to creep
can be reduced whereas in bord and pillar method,
the presence of many roadways may aggravate the

As stated earlier, there are two types of longwall

method of mining: i) advancing, and ii)
Longwall Advancing
The advancing method has the following main advantages and

1. This method enables fully productive operations to be

commenced with comparatively
little development work.
2. It provides for the maximum degree of extraction from the
3. Subsidence is even over the working area and the rate and
amount of subsidence can be
regulated within limits by the method and quality of stowing
or packing.
4. It enables concentration of men and, therefore,
large output can be drawn from relatively small
working areas.
5. Ventilation is more efficient.
6. Strata control is comparatively easy.
7. Capital outlay on the face per tonne of production
is generally less than in bord and pillar workings.


1. Much labour and material are needed for

supporting the working area both at the face and
along the roadway. .
Disadvantages (contd.)..

2. A rigid cycle of operations has to be followed,

especially in conventional longwall mining and
because of rigid cycle of operations non-
attendance of workmen in the working shift may
have a disproportionate effect on the output

3. The longwall faces associated with the system of

conventional longwall mining require large
concentration of men and the psychology of group
work seems to be that the productive effort is too
often reduced to the level of the less energetic
members of the group.
4. Too much stone work is required and often large
quantities of filling materials have to be brought
from the surface which results in additional cost.

5. The method does not involve proving of the area in

advance of the main producing units, and thus when
faults or intrusions are encountered unexpectedly a
serious loss of output may result.

6. For some distance behind the working face the

roadways are in moving ground and require costly
maintenance and hence increase in cost.
7. As the roadways behind the face are in moving
ground, the uninterrupted working of roadway
belt conveyors is more difficult to ensure and cost
of maintaining them is more than in roadways
driven in solid ground.

8. When a longwall face has reached its boundary,

the salvage of alI the support materials and the
removal of the plant must be carried out very
quickly if serious losses are to be avoided. This
work necessitates the provision of a large salvage
staff working intermittently.
9. Ventilation in the road-heads in the top road
which may be 30-50 m ahead of the advancing
face, is provided by a special line of ducts taking
in air which has already been heated and
contaminated with dust by passing along the
face. Furthermore, air containing dust and shot
firing fumes from the road head in the bottom
road also has to pass along the face when the
advancing method is used.
Retreating Longwall

To get over the disadvantages of advancing system

longwall retreating has been evolved.

In this case the face works on a wide front as in

advancing method but it retreats on preformed
gates in the solid.

The following are the advantages and disadvantages

of retreating longwall method:
Schematic diagram illustrating longwall retreat mining

1. The gate roads are supported by solid coal at least

on one side.

2. The immediate area to be worked is pre-explored,

and planning may be modified to deal with faults
and intrusions without serious loss in output.
Before expensive machinery is installed. the area of
coal to be worked is less of an unknown factor from
the point of view of geological disturbances.
whether this be in the form of actual faults or seam
section or changing gradient.
3. The necessity for the repair of roadways may be
completely eliminated, resulting in considerable
saving in unproductive work and expenditure on
support materials.

4. When a power loader is used, the forming of the

stable-holes necessary in longwall advancing is
eliminated or the work greatly reduced, with a
consequent reduction in labour and shortfiring.
On pre-driven roadways of required dimension the coal
cutting machine can be moved forward at the face
ends ready for the next trip without stable holes
having to be prepared as a separate operation or by
cutting out the end stable hole on the face. This is
the key to rapid advance, for the pre-won roadways
in the seam do not have to be enlarged or
maintained during the life of coal production in the
panel itself.

5. The roadway conveyor suffers less loss of alignment

and is more reliable.

6. Good ventilation is established and assured before

panel extraction commences.
7. Development working is highly productive with
low cost per tonne due to characteristics of the
continuous miner. where employed. Road
drivages for development can be carried out with
the most modern machines with highest rate of

8. As the roadways are driven in advance of the

retreating faces, there is greater flexibility to
drifting operation and face workings.
9. In the case of a retreating face, the roadway is only
subjected to the pressure wave proceeding the face
which makes it possible in certain cases to space the
roadway arches further apart or even to choose a
less expensive form of lining.
This favourable case will occur mainly when the
main roof contains sandstone.
On the other hand when the strata have a soft roof,
the pressure- wave preceeding the face tends to
cause considerable damage in roadways driven in
Furthermore, in headings driven by continuous miners or
similar machines, elimination of shot firing helps the
roadway to stand well and make it possible to reduce
the lagging of the lining.

10. The belts are at their maximum length when the face
is started. Any defective section can be cut out as the
belt is shortened at regular intervals.

11. It is no longer necessary to transport arches and

laggings in the direction of roadhead.
12. The retreating method in some cases allows better
concentration than the advancing method. Thus.
the use of the retreating method in staggered
faces makes it possible to work several adjacent
seams simultaneously without causing serious
damage on the roadways of the overlying seam.

On the other hand, in the case of advancing

working, working in one seam influences the
roadways of the staggered faces in the overlying
The retreating method suffers from certain
disadvantages of which the main disadvantages are the
1. Long narrow headings have to be driven to open
out the face. Building up of production, therefore.
takes comparatively long time.
2. In some seams it is economically impossible to drive
a narrow heading in the seam on account of roof
pressure, floor heave and other causes.
If the surrounding rocks and particularly the roof
strata are very soft, the maintenance of roadways is
very difficult and costly.
3. There are conditions when the weight cannot be
controlled on the retreat.
In some conditions, which may be natural or due to
prior extraction of a coal seam below or above,
even wide headings cannot be driven economically
owing to continuing pressures above and below the
comparatively narrow width of heading extracted.

3. The removal of methane remains one of the

greatest obstacles to the general adoption of the
retreating method.
The total quantity of methane released by the
retreating method is certainly not greater than the
quantity of methane which would have been released if
the advancing method had been used.

But in the case of advancing working the methane

escaping from the packs is added to the ventilation air
along the whole length of the top road while in the
retreating method, the methane escapes at the rear of
the face.
5. The roadways require to be equipped with a line of
ducting during driving, if driven singly.

6. In retreating faces the optimum output is obtained

when the goaf is caved. If stowing is necessary the
output tends to drop.

A variant of longwall method is short wall mining

(Figure 5.6) in which the length of faces is much smaller
than is normal with longwall mining. The short wall was
developed to employ the usual room and pillar
equipment but with geometric simplicity and the
advantages of self advancing hydraulic roof support.
Support design enabled continuous miner and a shuttle
car to be used to extract a coal block. This method is
very popular in Australia and the USA. This method
gives high production and productivity.
Figure 5.6 : Shortwali mining method (After Ayre, T.G., "Innovations in Underground
Coal Mining" BHP Tech. Bull., Nov. 1979, 23 (2), p. 19)
Coal seams have varying thicknesses, dips, and
structures and occur at different depths. It follows,
therefore, that a method of mining proved successful
in one set of conditions cannot be applied for mining a
seam in a different set of conditions. Hence, it
becomes a prerequisite to make a correct choice of the
method of mining for success.
The factors which influence the choice of mining
methods are:

(I) Physical, and (2) Technical and economical.

The physical factors of importance are the following:

(i) Thickness of the seam; (ii) Gradient of the seam; (iii)

Depth of the seam; (iv) Shape of the deposit; (v)
Structure and Geological abnormalities; (vi) Gassiness
and proneness to spontaneous heating;
(vii) Characteristics of the roof and floor rocks, and
(viii) Hydrogeological conditions.

The important technical and economic factors are:

(i) Technological development and availability of
machines and (ii) Economic value of the coal mined,
whether it is in abundance or in short supply. And
finally, availability of technical skill and the experiences
prevailing in a country also influence the choice of
mining method.
Depth of the Seam

Coal seams occur at difference depth.

In some colliery takes they may be
outcropping or occurring at shallow
depths and in some other takes they may
occur at considerable depths.
When the seams outcrop or occur at
shallow depths, they may be mined by
open-pit mining methods but if the over-
burden becomes too large due to the
increase in the depth of the seam, they
are mined by underground mining
These days technological developments in transport
system have enabled mining of coal seams by
opencast methods from much greater depths. The
Mukunda opencast coal mine in the Jharia coalfield is
planned to a depth of 480 m.

As the depth of the seam increases. the pressure of

the superincumbent strata increases; this increase is
about 0.23 kg per cm2per m depth and for this
reason bord and pillar type of mining is not preferred
at greater depths.
Some authors believe that the limit of bord and
pillar type of mining is 300 m, beyond which the
longwall method of mining should be adopted as it
lends itself well to strata control. Whereas in some
other locales this limit is fixed at 600 m. Also with
the increase in depth the virgin rock temperature
increases and the gas content of the coal seams
increases and in some coalfields the wall rocks
become weaker. Hence, a system of mining which
can give better ventilation and roof control will be
the obvious choice and from these considerations
the longwall type of mining becomes the choice.
With further increase in depth, mining of coal
becomes difficult due to very high virgin rock
In the British coalfields the depth beyond which coal
mining will not be possible due to high virgin rock
temperature has been suggested at 1524 m (Brornilow,
1955) and in India due to high geothermic gradient
this depth may be much less. All the same,
considerable coal reserves lie at this depth or at
greater depths. For mining such deep seams
underground gasification of coal may be an attractive
Shape of the Deposit

Coal seams occur as sheet-like deposits and have

undergone various changes in their shape on account
of tectonic disturbances or genetic reasons.
As found today the seams may be

I) regular: 2) undulating. or 3) contorted.

Regular seams are suitable for conventional or

hydraulic mining.
But seams which have undulations in the roof present
difficulties if worked by conventional mining.
Such seams could, however, be worked, by hydraulic
mining, though flume efficiency will be affected.

Seams which occur as ponds can be worked by open

pit mining method; underground mining methods are
not suited to work such deposits.

Sometimes seams split and form fish tail like

structures. Working of these seams is frought with
strata control problems and selection of a suitable
method of mining such deposits may be difficult to
Extreme folding, thickening and thinning and faulting
make the working of coal seams difficult and correct
choice of mining method a complex problem as has
been the case with the working of Pastora seam, North
of Spain. A section of this seam is given in Figure 2.5. For
mining this seam in some parts horizontal slicing and
sub level caving have proved successful.

When the variation in thickness is too much, it is often

difficult to find out the right type of machines which can
be deployed in such seams and mechanisation In such
seams becomes increasingly difficult.
Thickness of the Seam

The thickness of the coal seams varies from a few

centimeters to several meters. A lignite bed in Korkino on
the slopes of Ural mountains former USSR is 160 m thick.

In India. a coal seam In Singrauli coalfield attains the

thickness of 162 m. The world's thickest coal seam
230.73 m thick occurs at Loy Yang, Victoria, Australia at a
depth of 21.3 m from the surface.
The common thickness of seams in which mining has
been going on in the world are 0.4 m to 10 m thick
Jeremic ( 1982) has put coal seams in four groups
according to their thickness:
(i) very thin 0.3 to 0.5 m; (ii) thin 0.5 to 1.5 m: (iii)
medium thick 1.5 to 3.5 m. and (iv) thick over 3.5
m thick.
In India. seams more than 4.8 m thick are
considered as thick. There is no further
subdivision into thin and medium thickness.
But roughly seams less than 1.8 m thick are
considered as thin seams and seams between 1.8
and 4.8 m as of medium thickness. Guin, Singh
and Misra. (1978) have put the upper limit of thin
seams at 1.5 m.
Gradient of the Seam

Coal seams occur at varying gradients from 0-90° and are

generally classified as moderately or gently dipping, semi-
steep or steep seams. For example, Shevyakov (1958)
gave the following classification of coal seams according
to their gradients:
(i ) gently dipping 0-25O (ii) inclined-25-45° and (iii)
steeply pitching-45°to -98O.
Based on the practices followed in the Ruhr coalfield
Fritzsche and Potts (1954) classified seam gradients as
follows: (i) Flat-0-20O; ii ) semi-steep +20 to -40°; and (iii)
steep measures +40°.
In flat or gently dipping coal seams coal or stone
which are broken or dislodged remain at their sites but
in steep measures they may roll down.
In certain cases coal pillars may also slide down and
the falling stone in the goaf, has a tendency to flush
the working in the dip side in steep seams.

Mining methods, which are selected for working steep

seams, must, therefore take into consideration the
various effects of dips
For example, in steep measures bord and pillar type
of working will not be successful. In thick and steep
seams, horizontal slicing is the obvious choice. But
if the seam is thin and at the same time steep, the
face must be worked by breast stoping as in
metalliferous mining practice or if mechanical
cutting is done, special types of machines will he
Coal cut or dislodged from the seam, rolls down on
the floor under the action of gravity and is loaded
into mine cars at the lower level through chutes as
in the Austrian coalfield, Spain.
In moderately thick and nearly vertical seams,
mining with stowing in ascending order as
practiced at Marlebache Colliery in Lorrain
Coalfield, France, may be desirable.

Thick and steep seams are also suited for hydraulic

mining as the layout of slurry pipe range on
favorable gradient is easier.
In India, at some collieries thick and steep seams have
been developed on bord and pillar system on modified
horizon system of mining but extraction of pillars has not
been successful.

In flat measures, conventional mining, bord and pillar or

longwall mining, is successful; the coal transport is by
conveyors; or by rope haulages or in suitable conditions
by trackless haulage.
In some coal seams, variations in dip occur which
complicate the working methods.
Strike of the Seam

With certain types of structures, the strike of the seam

changes its direction and hence, there are changes in
the direction of dips as would be the case in basin type
Such seams must be opened out by horizon system of
mining so that the locomotive haulage forms the main
Layout of pipe ranges on uniform gradient as required in
hydraulic mining may need special arrangements.
Mechanical Properties of the Coal

The important mechanical and physical properties

of the coal, which influence the selection of mining
method, are compressive strength, hardness and
Higher the compressive strength, the smaller the
pillar in a particular situation. Alternatively, higher
the compressive strength, the greater is the factor
of safety for a given size of pillars.
Coal seams with soft coals of low compressive
strength are not suitable for working by bord and
pillar methods as they would need blocking out too
large pillars and this in turn will lead to operational
Besides, in high seams a method of mining which
exposes roof coal may be , inadmissible in soft coal
Hardness of coal and its abrasivity are important
considerations to decide the type of machine that can be
deployed for getting coal.
In very hard coals, machine mining may be difficult and
only practical alternative may be blasting off the solid.
The efficiency of mechanization will to a large degree
depend on the hardness of coal.

At a coal mine in Novascotia, where the coal is medium

hard, pillars crush practically regardless of size.
Therefore, room and pillar method is not used and
longwall with packs is the rule (Given, 1973).
Coal Seam cleavage and Dirt Bands

Every coal seam has two sets of cleavages of which

one set is prominent and the other set at right
angles to it is less marked.
There could be yet another set of cleavage which is
parallel to the bedding planes. Coal has natural
tendency to break along the cleavage planes.

Advantage of this could be taken in orientating the

face with respect to a particular coal getting
machine used
For example, ploughs work to their best efficiency
when the face is parallel to the cleats and cutter
loaders when the face is on end. An orientation of 45-
135° to the cleat line is considered to give optimum
efficiency (Evans and Pomeroy, 1966).
Thick seams invariably have dirt bands and sometimes
thin seams too have dirt bands. Bands not only create
problems in machine mining, but they are also the
horizons where stress concentration takes place and
may cause coal bursts.
Also a system of mining which does not distinguish
between bands and coal will lead to high percentages
of ash in the run of mine coal.
Geological Disturbances

It is not uncommon to find that some seams have too

many intrusions (dykes and sills), faults, washouts, etc.

When they occur, they break the continuity of the coal

seam, besides making roof weak. With such
disturbances, it is not possible to continue the longwall
face. Bord and pillar mining in such conditions becomes
a practical proposition.
It has also been seen that in the same colliery on one
side the seam has flat gradient and at the other end it
has semi-steep to steep gradient
Schematic cross-section of a tectonically disturbed area with coal
seams, with an indication of the undisturbed overburden sediments.
Block diagram which gives a schematic impression of the tectonics.
For example, at Digwadih Colliery, Jharia coalfield the
XIV seam has 1 in 7 gradient on one side, whereas
due to Bhulanbarari-Patherdih thrust, on the other
side, the seam has been bent to give steep gradient.

In this condition in-the-seam mining could be

successful on the side with 1 to 7 gradient but on the
steep side a form of horizon mining will be necessary
to open out the seam.
Characteristics of Roof and Floor

Coal seams may have shale or sandstone as their roof

or floor, In some cases there may be fireclay at the
floor but in India fireclay rarely occurs and if it does,
then it occurs as overclay and not as underclay. If the
floor is weak, trackless mining cannot be done as
crawler mounted or tyre mounted machines cannot
operate satisfactorily over weak floors.
Similarly, when the roof is weak and its stability is
poor, bord and pillar type of mining must not be
adopted because this requires numerous roads which
should have stable roofs.
The longwall type of mining will present less
problems under bad roof conditions. Indeed, for all
types of method of mining a good roof is a
prerequisite but in longwall the problems created by
a weak roof can be overcome;
In bord and pillar type of mining it is prohibitively
costlier. On the other hand, with very strong roof,
mining with caving presents difficulties and generally
stowing is resorted to in such cases. Certain roof
types, which are stable up to an extent and then cave
in, are required for the success of hydraulic mining;
too weak or too strong roofs are not desirable.
Gas Content of the Coal Seam

Gas is one of the products formed during coalification.

This gas mainly consists of methane with slight
admixture of other hydrocarbons and hydrogen and is
explosive, when present in certain proportions in the
mine atmosphere (5-14%). Most of the gas formed at
the time of coalification has escaped to the
atmosphere. Yet gas is retained by coal seams to
differing degrees depending on circumstances and flows
into the mine atmosphere in three ways;
i) Slow oxidation; ii) Blowers with hissing sound, and iii)
Outburst when large quantity of gas suddenly bursts
Depending upon the gas content, coal seams in India
have been classified into three categories (Table 2.9).
Although gas can be found in any coal seam, coal
seams lying at greater depths contain more gas. Gassy
mines necessitate adoption of suitable mining method
so that dangerous accumulation of gas does not take
place. In the longwall method of mining, it is easier to
maintain good ventilation and keep the face free of
gas. Slice mining in descending order will be desirable
system of mining for the working of thick and gassy
coal seams. Bord and pillar type of mining must be
avoided in highly gassy seams.
Coal's Proneness to Spontaneous Combustion

When coal comes in contact with oxygen it oxidises

giving out carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide plus
certain quantity of heat as per equations given below:
C + O2 = CO2 + 96 kcal
C + O2 = CO + 66 kcal
The heat so given out if not dissipated, accumulates at
the site of oxidation which in turn accelerates the pace
of oxidation. Finally, coal becomes red hot and bursts
into flame.
For oxidation to take place the prerequisite is the
presence of coal in broken or crushed form as crushed
coal presents greater surface area for the oxidation to
take place.
Although all coals are prone to Oxidation, some coal
seams are more prone to self combustion. For example,
coals of inferior grade are highly susceptible to self
heating whereas coals of higher rank, e.g., anthracite is
not susceptible to spontaneous combustion.
Also, full extraction from thick seams is not possible
and the coal left in the goaf forms the required fuel
for the heating to take place.
For working such seams mining methods should be so
selected as will leave minimum amount of coal in the
goaf and the panel will be exhausted within minimum
These requirements lead to the choice of longwall
system of mining and preferably with stowing or by
rapidly advancing Longwall faces (not less than 2 m
per day).
Hydro geological Conditions of the Coal Measures

In certain areas, formations containing water under

pressure exist over the coal seam separated by small
Kamptee seams presents a case of this type in India.
For mining coal seams under such conditions, the
method of mining has to be such which will keep the
strata intact.
That is partial extraction on bord and pillar mining
method should be adopted under such conditions
If, however, intervening strata is of sufficient
thickness and on undermining fills the void without
rupture up to the body of water, longwall mining
with short faces can also be done as is being
practised at Velenji mine in Yugoslavia.

In some countries runing even below the sea is

being done. Water bearing deposits are not suited
for underground gasification.
Availability of Machines for Mechanisation and
Development in Technology

Mechanisation of coal cutting and loading is an

important factor in the choice of mining method. For
example, the longwall mining is adopted to work in
some conditions where bord and pillar type of mining is
ideally suited because for mechanization only the
longwall face machines are available. The longwall
mechanisation has reached a stage of near perfection.
With the type of mechanisation, now available longwall
faces are regularly producing 2,000 tonnes of coal per
day and record faces have produced much more
To take advantage of such high production capacity,
the longwall faces are being opened out in many
countries where bard and pillar type of mining was
predominant. e.g .. the USA, Australia, India, South
Africa. etc.
Moreover. as the mining technology develops,
newer methods are introduced. Formerly in India
thick seams were worked only by bord and pillar
method of mining.
Now inclined slicing or sublevel caving is replacing
the older techniques.
For mining thick and steep seams hydraulic mining
is being considered and for mining very deep seams
underground gasification is under discussion.
The mining world has seen many changes in the
techniques of coal getting and loading over the
years: from pick and shovel mining to full face
mechanisation and automation including coal
getting Loading, Transport, support setting and
advance and manless mining.
Economic Value of Coal

It is true to say that necessity is the mother of invention.

In a situation where coal is a scarce commodity. efforts
will have to be put in to evolve newer methods of
mining of coal. For instance, coal lying at depths in
excess of 1500 m will need different methods of mining,
the conventional methods will not be successful. Deep
level underground coal gasification may be an attractive
technique of recovering energy from deep coal beds.
The limits of application of openpit mining will need
redefinition as openpit mining of coal even from
greater depths will be economical.

For example. India has limited reserves of coking

coal and so to improve percentage recovery of coal
and to increase production of coking coal quickly.

Openpit mining is contemplated even from depths

which were considered to be uneconomic a decade
In advanced countries like the UK, the USA
openpit mining is considered to be economic for
mining coal seams with much higher overburden
to coal ratios.

For example. in UK, the average ratio of over

burden to coal is 1.7 : I but in one particular
operation in South Wales, a maximum vertical
ratio of 50.9 : I and a working ratio of 63.95 : 1
was obtained (Rhodes. 1982).
Traditions and Availability of Trained Personnel

Sometimes a mining method is selected because the

work people are familiar with it only and have no
experience of other methods. In such cases unless the
work people are trained in the new method of mining,
the traditional methods continue.
Before introducing a new system of mining it is
essential to train the work people on its practical and
theoretical aspects and the method may be Introduced
under the guidance of experts. When the people
become familiar with it, they accept it willingly and work
for its success.


Bord and pillar mining method comprises two phases,

i.e., development or 'whole working' and depillaring or
'broken working'. Sometimes both these phases
proceed simultaneously.
In development, pillars are formed by driving a
network of galleries, of which one set is generally
parallel to the dip and the other set is parallel to the
strike cutting the former at right angles.
Figure 6.1 shows the basic parameters of bord and
pillar mining system.
Figure 6.1 : Basic elements of bard and pillar
method of mining.
Classification of Bord and Pillar Mining System

The bord and pillar system of mining can be done in three

ways, namely:
1. Develop the entire area into pillars and then extract the
pillars starting from the boundary.

1. Develop the area into panels and extract pillars

subsequently panel-wise. This is called panel system of

1. "Whole" followed by "broken" working in which the mine

is opened out by a few headings only and thereafter
development and depillaring go on simultaneously
starting from the boundary.
Development of entire area followed by pillar

The first system (Figure 6.2) is attractive in that more

number of working faces can be made available and thus
more number of miners can be given employment.

Large output can be quickly built up. In the past this

system was practised widely in Indian mines and in
certain mines with very few coal cutting machines high
outputs were obtained.
But this system has the following disadvantages:
Figure 6.2 : Development of entire area followed by extraction of pillars.
(i) As the pillars have to stand for a long time
before they are extracted, spalling takes place
and they get weakened.
Consequently, they may get crushed and there
is the risk of premature collapse.
(ii) Ventilation may be sluggish due to greater
percentage of air leakage.
(iii) Treatment of coal dust is costly and difficult.
(iv) There is greater risk of fire spreading in the
whole mine.
(v) Coal dust explosion cannot be contained; if it
occurs, it spreads throughout the mine.

(vi) Crush and creep cannot be localised.

(vii) The work is scattered. Consequently, the output

per man-shift is low.

Due to these disadvantage this system is not used

these days.
The panel system of mining

In the Panel system of mining (Figure 6.3) the coal seam

is divided into a number of panels separated from one
another by solid barrier of coal. This system offers the
following advantages:

1. Risk of loss of coal through spontaneous heating is

limited. In the event of fire occurring, the panel can
be isolated from other parts of the workings.
Similarly, explosions can be limited to the panel of
2. Crushing of pillars is avoided.
3. Creep and thrust (crush) started in any part of the
mine are arrested in their course and isolated in their
Figure 6.3: Panel system of bord and pillar mining
4. 'Whole' and 'broken' workings can be done at the
same time i.e., in one panel development and in
another panel depillaring can be done at the same

5. Ventilation is improved. Each panel can be provided

with its separate intake and return. Also number of air
stoppings can be substantially reduced.

6. Control of subsidence is possible. By working panels of

sub-critical width, magnitude of subsidence can be

7. By suitable design using yield pillar techniques

percentage extraction can be improved.
The main disadvantages of the panel system of mining are:

1. Considerable amount of coal is lost in barriers. Generally,

in Indian practice roughly 20% of coal is lost in the

2. More number of air crossings are required for ventilation


3. Each panel must have its own independent coal cutting

machine and haulage. Flitting of coal cutting machine
from one panel to the other panel is not practicable.

4. Crushing of barriers may result in joining of two panels

with consequent spread of fire (if it existed in anyone of
the panels) and delayed and sudden subsidence.
"Whole" followed by "broken" workings

The current trend, however, is to open-out the mine

with as few headings as possible (say three to five) and
retreat back from the boundary, 'broken' workings
following the ‘whole‘ workings (Figure 6.4) in suitable
size panels. This system is superior over others in the
following respects:

I. Ventilation is efficient.

2. Coal dust treatment is simpler.

3. With intensive machine mining high outputs can
be obtained. Even in the opening out stage high
outputs can be obtained using intensive
mechanisation and output per man-shift (OMS)
can be high.
4. Organisation is simpler.
5. Crush and premature collapse of pillars is a
remote possibility.
6. Haulage can be simpler.
7. As the development and extraction of pillars go
together, same transport system as for
development can be used for extraction work also
in -its retreating passage.
8. Control of fire is comparatively easy.

The main elements of bord and pillar workings are :

the size of the panel;
the size of barriers;
the size of pillars;
and the width and height of galleries.
Their design must be based on critical techno-
economic analysis so as to give maximum operational
efficiency and safety.
Cyclic Mining

Broadly, the cyclic mining pursues the following

combinations of operations:

•Drill, blast and load or,

•Cut, Drill, blast and load

Loading of the blasted coal may be done manually or

by mechanical means.
Amongst the mechanical loaders gathering arm
loaders, bucket loaders and scraper loaders are most
common these days. For the haulage of coal in the
Continuous Mining

Continuous Mining uses the following equipment:

continuous miners (ripping, milling, boring of
auger type), shuttle cars and conveyors.


Development of board and pillar workings involves

drivage of a set of galleries in the seam cut by
another set of parallel galleries generally at right
angles to them thus forming pillars surrounded by
bords. The drivage of galleries can be done in one
of the following ways:
•Manual drivage, this method is now
almost non-existent.
•Drill and blast, i.e., blasting off the solid
and manual or mechanical loading.
•Cut, drill and blast and manual or
mechanical loading.
•Cut and load mechanically by continuous
Development by Blasting of the Solid

In this method, shot holes are placed on the face by

electric drills and coal is blasted off the solid, using P5
On a face 4.2 m wide x 2.2 m high generally 12
shotholes 1.5 m long each are drilled which yield 10-
12 tonnes of coal per round of blasting and give a
progress of 1.2 m. Coal thus got is hand-loaded.
Blasting of the solid is especially suited for
drivages in steep seams in which use of coal
cutting machines is difficult.
A common layout of the bord and pillar working
for working by blasting off the solid as adopted
in Godavari Valley Coalfield is given in Figure
This method is cheap and simple, and in recent
years it has become quite popular in Indian Coal
In some mines Jubmoo drills fitted with augers
have been introduced in recent years to drill shot
holes and also to put one or two large diameter (30
cm dia) holes on the face to which the other shots
The purpose is to improve blasting efficiency,
increase pull per round of blasting to cut down the
total drilling time and thus increase panel
Figure 6.11 shows the pattern of shot holes
with two 30 cm diameter holes, one on each
side of the heading.
Trails done in a colliery in Godavari Valley
Coalfield show that the pull increased from 1m
to 1.5m and the coal got per kg of explosive
increased from 2 tonnes to 2.3 – 2.5 tonnes
with the use of two large diameter holes one
on each side of the face.
Development with Coal Cutting Machines

Figure 6.13 shows the development of a panel with

five headings on the strike. The pillars are 152 ft
(45.72 m) square.
The headings are undercut by a coal cutting machine
and shot holes are then drilled and charged with
explosives and blasted.
Blasted coal is hand loaded on to scraper chain
conveyors which transport coal to the pit bottom.
An output of up to 450 tonnes per day has been
obtained by this method in a Colliery in Raniganj
Coalfield (Kamra and Kapila, 1964).
Each heading can be cut twice a shift, thus making a
progress of 3 m per shift.
Figure 6.14 shows the method of development of a panel
by driving five headings to the dip. The equipments
used in method of development of a panel by driving five
headings to the dip.
The equipments used in this case also are coal cutting
machine, hand held electric drill, chain conveyors, and a
central belt conveyor which brings coal to a direct rope
haulage installed in the main dip of the district.
Figure 6.13: Development with five headings along the strike
(After Kamra and Kapilla, 1964)
Development using Gathering Arm Loaders
and Shuttle Cars

Development of bord and pillar workings using

coal cutting machines, gathering arm loaders
and shuttle cars has been tried out in many
collieries in India.
A typical layout for development of a horizon
with three headings in argada seam 21.33 m
thick dipping at 1 in 2.8 has been illustrated in
Figure 6.15. The equipment comprised the
Crawler mounted coal cutting machine 1
Shuttle Car 1
M&C Loader 1
Drill 1
Auxiliary fan with 76 cm ducting 1

The cycle of cutting, drilling, blasting and loading

could be completed in 2 ¼ hours.
Mechanised room and pillar mining has been
developed to a high degree of efficicency in the
The latest and most successful system is known as
the “conventional method” (Wood, 1975).
Figure 6.16 illustrates a layout where the sequence
of operations depends upon working a five entry
system and forming pillars 28.35 m X 28.35 m.
This is in conformity with a mining restriction of
38% extraction.
The layout makes available 11 faces where mining work
can be carried out with one basic set of equipment
item wise as follows:

1 15 RV universal coal cutter – tyre mounted

1 14 BU Gathering arm loader
1 CD 71 A mobile coal drilling rig
1 Ratio feeder
1 10 SC cable reel shuttle car
1 Auxiliary supplies vehicle
Basically, the operation consists of the universal coal
cutter working systematically in each entry forming a
2.74 m, high by 5.48-6.40 m wide roadway.
This is followed by the drilling and shotfiring
operation, and finally by the loading out operation by
means of the gathering arm loader.
The latter machine feeds alternately the two cable
reel shuttle cars which carry the coal back to the
conveyor transfer station situated in the middle
roadway of the five entries
A ratio feeder at the point assists with the transfer
from shuttle car to conveyor.
The final piece of equipment, the auxiliary supplies
vehicle, ensure that there are adequate supports at
each place of work and also assists with the support
setting by means of an in-built hydraulic ram.
Current trials with remote control equipment on
the gathering arm loader are aimed at increasing
efficiency of the system as well as ensuring that this
operation is always working under supported roof.
Manpower per shift

Cutter operator - 1
Cutter operator’s assistant - 1 (support setting)
Shuttle car operators - 2
Gathering Arm Loader Operator - 1
Coal Drill Operator - 1
Utility Man (supplies vehicle) - 1
Shotfirers - 2
Electrician - 1
Mechanic - 1
(1 manshift / day included
in total number of oil and
pick man)
Deputy - 1
Overman - 1
Development using Continuous Miners

Figure 6.17 (Singh, 1967) shows a panel with five

headings on the strike in a seam 8.53 m thick
dipping at 1 in 14.
The galleries were 4.8 m wide X 3 m high driven
along the floor and the pillars were 27.4 m x 27.4 m
from centre to centre.
The miner cut the full width of a gallery in two
First, 2.59 m was cut and then the miner was
shifted to the next position to cut the other half of
the gallery, the overlap being 30 cm.
The coal, thus cut, was loaded into a Torkar,
three of which were provided to the miner:

such that when one was being loaded the

other was discharging coal on to the belt
conveyor and the third was standing in “Que”
to be loaded.
The face was ventilated by overlap ventilation.
With this arrangement a maximum progress of 39.63 m per day was obtained.
Each panel had the capacity to produce 20000 tonnes of coal per month. The
equipment and crew comprised the following:

(i) Equipment
Miner 1
Torkar 3
Belt Conveyor 1
Face exhaust fan 1
(ii) Crew
Miner Operator 1
Miner Cable Handling 1
Torkar Drivers 3
Fan attendants 2
(iii) Follow up team
Extension of belt 6
Stone dusting and dust barrier 8 in only day shift.
After the formation of pillar, their extraction is done
from one end of the panel.

If the development was not done in panels, artificial

panels of suitable sizes are created by building
stoppings around the pillars intended to be extracted
such that the extraction of all pillars of a panel is
completed within the incubation period as required
under Regulation 118 A of the Coal Mines Regulation
Further Regulation 100 of CMR 1957 lays down
certain conditions which must be complied with
during the extraction. Some of the statutory
requirements are given below:

“100 (2) the extraction or reduction of pillars shall be

conducted in such a way as to prevent as far as
possible, the extension of a collapse or subsidence of
the goaf over pillars which have not been extracted.
“(3) (a) save as provided by clause (b) no pillars shall be
reduced or split in such a manner as to reduce the
dimensions of resultant pillars below those required by
regulation 99 (Table 6.2) nor shall any gallery be
heightened as to exceed three metres.

“(b) During the extraction of pillars, no splitting or

reduction of pillars or heightening of galleries shall be
restricted to a maximum of four pillars.
The width of the split galleries shall not exceed the
width prescribed for galleries under Regulation 99 (4)
(Table 6.2)
“(4) Except where the voids formed as a result of
extraction are stowed solid with sand or other
incombustible materials, no extraction of pillars in
any seam or section shall be commenced until the
firedams or stoppings have been provided in all
openings, other than openings essential for
ventilation and haulage around the area to be
and in the roads kept open for ventilation and
haulage, foundations for such dams or stoppings
shall be prepared and bricks
and other suitable materials shall be kept readily
available in their vicinity. Shale or other
carbonaceous material shall not be used in the
construction of firedams or stoppings.

“(5) When the method of extraction is to remove

all the coal or as much of the coal as is practicable
and to allow the roof to cave in, the operations shall
be conducted in such a way as to leave as small an
area of uncollapsed roof as possible.
Where possible suitable means shall be adopted to
bring the goaf at regular intervals.”
Further, as a precaution against spontaneous
combustion in a seam prone to autogenous fire
additional precautions have been stipulated in
Regulation 118 A which reads as below:

“118-A The following further precautions shall be

taken against the danger of spontaneous heating:

“(1) (a) The seam or section shall be worked in

panels having independent ventilation in such a
manner that it is possible to isolate one from another
easily if necessary.
Where development has already been made
without regard to this factor, artificial panels
shall be created by construction of stoppings.

In determining the size of the panel due

consideration shall be given to the desirability of
enabling complete extraction of pillars therein
within the incubation period of the coal.
“(b) No coal, shale or other carbonaceous
material shall be left or stacked below
Where removal of fallen coal out of mine is
not practicable, the area shall be effectively
sealed off.

“(d) A panel shall be isolated by adequate

stoppings as soon as it has been goaved out”.
The essence of the Regulations is

•To take effective steps for good roof control so as

to prevent premature collapse and overriding of
pillars and to ensure regular caving of the roof; and

•To take necessary steps against spontaneous

heating so as to enable complete extraction of coal
without spontaneous combustion occurring and to
be in readiness to seal off the district in case
spontaneous heating occurs.
Problems in the Extraction of Pillars

The Operations of pillar extraction are beset with

the problems of strata control.
If the operations have not been designed
scientifically, there are the dangers of major
strata movement setting in, which may result in
the overriding of pillars, and premature
In the past and also in recent years in the Jharia
coalfield and elsewhere during extraction of
pillars in thick seams, especially in seams
developed in multi-sections, premature collapses
have occurred involving large areas.
Besides, in seams prone to bumps like
Dishergarh seam extraction of pillars has led to
severe and frequent occurrences of bumps and
considerable quantities of coal has been lost.
In some seams, the roof does not cave in over
large areas for quite some time and / when it
does cave in, air blasts occur resulting in
In Central india, air blasts of high intensity have
occurred in past causing fatalities to miners.
Maintenance of acceptable environment is not
Splitting of pillars provides may leakage routes
and heightening and widening of galleries
increase cross-sectional areas and hence the
velocity of ventilating air is reduced.
The ventilation in depillaring faces often
becomes sluggish.
Airborne dust concentrations increase and
climatic conditions generally become
• Usually, some coal is left in the goaf, which may be
15-20 % of the panel reserve. This gets crushed,
oxidation sets in and eventually fire may break out.
There are numerous cases of fire occurring in
depillaring districts in Indian coal mines.

• Mechanisation of coal getting is not easily possible

on account of difficulty or roof control.

• Because of the reasons given at 1, 2 and 4 above,

the production from a district is not high and the
output per man-shift is low.
Principles of Pillar Extraction Techniques

The principles of pillar extraction techniques are as

given below:

• Roof exposure at any one time should be

In the Indian coalfields, where caving is
practiced, 60-90 m2 exposure is normally
But in stowing districts the exposure may be
increased up to 90 – 100 m2 .

• The size of panel should be such as depillaring

can be completed within the incubation period.
This period commonly varies between 6-9 months.
But there are some seams in which fire has not
occurred even though depillaring has been going on
for more than two years and yet there are some
seams in which spontaneous heating has been
reported within three to four months of the
commencement of depillaring.
In a lignite mine spontaneous heating took place
within a few weeks only.
The extraction line should be so arranged as to
facilitate roof control.
In practice a diagonal line, (Figure 6.18) or step
diagonal line of face (Figure 6.19) is common,
In special cases a steep diagonal line of face (Figure
6.20) or even straight line of face (Figure 6.21) has
been selected.
Diagonal or step diagonal line of face provides
protection as the working places are supported by
solid pillars and also when the roof caves, there is less
risk of goaf flushing into the working faces.
It is also claimed that diagonal line of extraction
helps in caving of the roof.
•In the panels worked in conjunction with
hydraulic sand stowing step-diagonal line of face
is preferred as it facilitates water drainage
without flooding the working faces in the lower

Straight line of face is rarely adopted; where it is

adopted, it is to facilitate mechanization in
transport or in special cases where pillars are
extracted on longwall system.
•The single – lift extraction is
If the thickness of the seam is more than 4.8 m,
the extraction is done in multi-lifts and in that case
hydraulic sand stowing is insisted upon. Seams up
to 4.8 m thick can be mined by caving in one pass.

•Whatever the method of extraction, the working

area is systematically supported by cogs and
Splitting of Pillars

As laid down in the Coal Mines Regulations 1957,

splitting of pillars must not be done more than two
pillars ahead of the pillar being extracted and at the
commencement of depillaring not more than two
pillars should be splitted.
This is done to reduced the zone of stress
concentration for ensuring stability of the workings.
A question arises whether the splits should be dip-
rise or on the strike?
Dip-rise splits enable the extraction to proceed
on the strike.
In this case haulage distance is comparatively
less, the roof caving is better controlled but if the
goaf is to be stowed, stowing is not possible up
to the roof.
When the pillar is splitted by a strike split,
extraction is done to the dip. ?
In this case, haulage distance is more than that
when the pillar is splitted by dip-rise splits but
stowing of the goaf to the roof is possible.

If depillaring is done with caving, the caving of roof

is hindered when the pillar is splitted by level split
and dip-rise slices are extracted.
Factors Influencing Choice of Pillar Extraction

• Thickness of the Seam: If the thickness of the seam

is 4.8 m or less, depillaring with caving in one slice
may be done.
• In seams more than 4.8 m thick, pillars must be
extracted in lifts in conjunction with stowing. The
lifts are normally 3 m thick or so. The last lift may
be up to 4.8 m high and could be extracted by
stowing or caving.
• Depth of the Seam: At greater depths, the pillars
must be larger and they are extracted in
conjunction with stowing. Splits have to be driven
on the strike.

• Roof of the Seam: For successful depillaring roof

must cave regularly. A roof with compressive
strength of less than 500 Kg/cm2 is normally a
cavable roof.
Massive and strong roofs create problems in caving
and blasting may have to resorted to induce
• Incubation Period of the Seam: A coal seam with
longer incubation period may be extracted in larger
To achieve the same effect, i.e., to make the panel
larger, mechanization of operations are necessary
in a seam with shorter incubation period so that
rate of extraction is increased.

• Dip of the Seam: In steeply inclined seams, special

techniques of extraction have to be designed such
as Tippong Method developed in Makum coalfield,
Assam, India, or Slant Method, Vermelles methods,
etc. developed in France.
Thin Seams

Depillaring in thin seams, such as Taltore seam 1.5 m

thick, Raniganj coalfield, has been done with caving
with diagonal line of face.
Figure 6.22 illustrates the sequence of extraction of
pillars. Transport of coal in the panel was done by hand
tramming. Wide, low height tubs were used and the
floor was also dinted to gain additional height. A pillar
was divided into four stooks by driving dip and rise and
strike splits.
Stooks were extracted by blasting off the solid and
the blasted coal was manually loaded into tubs. Roof
was supported by wooded props and cogs. The OMS
was low, generally not exceeding one tone. In some
mines, in Central India, scraper chain conveyors were
used success and gave improved results.

A seam up to 3 m thick is also worked by the same

method as above. In this case, however, floor dinting
is not necessary and tubs of low height need not be