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Pillar Removal in Retreat Mining

In room and pillar mining, retreat mining is the partial removal of enormous pillars of coal. As miners excavate underground ‘rooms’ of ore, pillars of untouched material are left to support the roof. Once the supply of the room has been depleted, miners begin partially removing these pillars to extract coal directly from the seam.

During retreat mining, the roof systematically collapses behind the removed pillars in a predetermined line. Even so, while this increases productivity, it also poses significant safety hazards.

Key fact: Retreat mining produces roughly 10% of all coal gathered from underground mining

Since these pillars support the roof of the room being excavated, the removal of them weakens the entire structure and increases the risk of collapse. Any amount of roof fall can halt mining operations, damage equipment, and cause serious injuries or even fatalities.

The hazards inherent in retreat mining require mine operators to be diligent in gathering geotechnical analyses of every panel created during room and pillar mining so that they can preempt the risks of roof falls.

Benefits

  • Increases coal recovery

  • Improves quality of run-of-mine coal

  • Increases overall productivity

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