Approaches and Barriers to Incorporating Sustainable Development Into Coal Mine Design
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This work demonstrates the advantage of using a systems engineering approach based on the premise that systems can only be optimized if all factors are considered at one time. Utilizing systems engineering and optimization approaches allows for the incorporation of regulatory and sustainability factors into coal mine design. Graphical approaches, based on the use of GIS tools, are shown as examples of the development of models for the positive and negative impacts of coal mining operations. However, this work also revealed that there are significant challenges inherent in optimizing the design of large-scale surface coal mining operations in Appalachia. Regulatory and permitting programs in the United States, which give conflicting and ill-defined responsibilities to a variety of federal and state agencies, often focus on single parameters, rather than the full suite of desirable outcomes for sustainability, and serve as barriers to innovation.
Sustainable development requires a delicate balance between competing economic, environmental and social interests. In the context of coal mining in the U.S., the current regulatory frameworks and policy-guidance vehicles impede this balance. To address this problem, and thus effectively and efficiently provide energy resources while protecting the communities and environments, the U.S. will likely need to fundamentally restructure regulatory programs. Ideally, revisions should be based upon the key concepts of public ecology and allow for a systems engineering approach to coal mine design.
- Doctoral Dissertations