A Comparison Of Longwall & Continuous Mining Safety In US Coal Mines 1988 - 1997 - Longwall Mining Safety
Description:This paper contains the results of an examination of accident, injury, employment, and production information reported to the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and provides information on some of the measures longwall mine operators are using to prevent accidents In all industries, technological advances play a key role in determining those who will survive as competitive participants in an increasingly global marketplace. While mining is among the most basic of industries, technological change is neither unfamiliar nor unwelcome to miners. Historically, technological advances in mining, particularly coal mining, have tracked closely with fluctuations in demand. In the early 1900's, coal accounted for more than three quarters of all the fuel consumed in the U.S. To meet this tremendous demand, underground cuffing machines were introduced, resulting in faster, more efficient coal extraction. Transporting coal to the surface, however, remained labor intensive. In the 1920's, nearly all underground coal was still being hand loaded. Demand for coal then declined as the price of oil, natural gas, and electricity became competitive. In the late 1930's and throughout the duration of World War II, coal demand and production was high. By 1940, more than half the coal mined was being mechanically conveyed to the surface. In 1948, the continuous mining method was introduced in the U.S., further accelerating the extraction process. By the 1950's and 1960's, however, coal production again declined as railroads converted to diesel fuel and gas and oil provided a larger share of the home heating market. Underground coal mines required even more mechanization to remain competitive as an energy source. The first longwall system was introduced in 1960. By 1995, longwalls were producing more than 189 million tons of clean coal annually, surpassing continuous mining production for the second straight year. The mining of coal and other materials has not come without a huge loss of life and considerable human suffering. More than 103,000 workers died from injuries in U.S. mines in the last 85 years. Between two and three thousand miners died each year from the turn of the century until 1931, many from underground fires and explosions. The U.S. has witnessed a tremendous drop in fatalities in underground coal mines. Credit for that is due to safety inspections and enforcement activities, better safety awareness and practices among management and labor, improved ventilation, the use of safer equipment, and increased mechanization which removed many miners from the hazards at the face and also reduced the size of the mining work force. There is little doubt that longwall mining has greatly increased underground coal mine productivity. The degree to which longwall mining has contributed to a safer work environment for underground miners is more difficult to ascertain.
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