The Effects of Backfilling on Ground Control and Recovery in Thin-Seam Coal Mining
A large percentage of Southern Appalachian coal reserves are located in seams less than 36" thick. As thicker and currently more mineable, deposits are exhausted, methods of underground thin-seam extraction will have to be developed. These methods must be capable of removing coal efficiently and economically. Past experience with highwall mining of thin-seam coal has indicated that recovery rates tend to be lower than in conventional operations. It is suspected that this will also apply to underground thin-seam mining, regardless of proposed technology or mining method. A method of increasing recoveries from thin-seam mining operations is necessary in order to exploit thin-seam reserves.
Backfilling is one alternative that may find applicability in thin-seam coal mining. The ability of backfill to provide additional ground support may enhance coal recovery by allowing for the design of undersized pillars. Backfill has been used extensively in hard rock mining but has found limited use in coal mining. Its adaptability to thin-seam coal mining has been examined and is presented in this thesis.
Backfill is capable of providing additional ground support by restricting lateral deformation of surrounding coal pillars and roof. This additional support can result in significant increases in recovery from thin-seam coal deposits. However, the overall feasibility of backfill is dependent on the in situ behavior of the fill material, the properties of the fill, the effects of the filling method on the total mining operation, and the cost of filling per extra ton of coal recovered. The influence of these parameters has been studied and indicate that, in certain situations, backfilling for the purpose of increasing recovery rates from thin-seam coal mines is feasible.