ers, careful environmental management of mined lands and waste products, and improved productivity and recovery to optimize use of the nation’s coal resource.

Improved Mine Worker Health and Safety

A range of factors increase health and safety risks to the coal mining workforce, including the introduction of new equipment and systems; the commencement of mining in virgin areas; the infusion of new workers; and the mining of multiple seams, seams that are thinner, thicker, or deeper than those customarily mined at present and new seams that underlie or overlie previously mined-out seams. All of these factors are likely to apply to some degree in future mines, irrespective of whether the higher production scenarios suggested in some forecasts eventuate. If they do materialize, then these risks are likely to become even more pronounced.

  • There are major knowledge gaps and technology needs in the areas of survival, escape, communications systems (both surface-to-underground and underground-to-underground), and emergency preparedness and rescue. Additional risk factors that are likely to apply in the deeper mines of the future are the potential hazards related to methane control, dust control, ignition sources, fires, and explosions.

  • Greater understanding and better prediction of strata behavior to prevent unanticipated12 roof collapse, particularly problems associated with roof and side fall during thick seam extraction, are essential for maintaining and improving worker safety.

  • Federal support for health and safety research significantly decreased about a decade ago, and has essentially remained constant since that time.

Recommendation: Health and safety research and development should be expanded to anticipate increased hazards in future coal mines. These R&D efforts should emphasize improved methane control, improved mine ventilation, improved roof control, reduced repetitive and traumatic injuries, reduced respiratory diseases, improved escape and rescue procedures, improved communications systems, and research to reduce explosions and fires. This should be coupled with improved training of the mining workforce in all aspects of mine safety. R&D should also be directed toward lowering the exposure of mine workers to hazardous conditions, particularly through expanded use of remote sensing and the automation of mining operations.


Roof collapse is anticipated during longwall mining after the coal has been removed (see Appendix E).

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