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I SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS A. SUMMARY The Panel on Coal Mining Technology of the NRC Committee on Processing and Utilization of Fossil Fuels was appointed to access the distribution and quality of the nation's coal reserves, underground and surface mining techniques, processing techniques, manpower and transportation requirements, the environmental impact of coal mining, and other social and regulatory issues. The worsening energy shortage and the recent decline in coal mining productivity stimulated the Panel to consider all factors influencing coal mining activities so that it could make recommendations for improving the environmental acceptability of coal mining and the health and safety of miners while also increasing productivity and improving the economics of coal mining. B. CONCLUSIONS 1. Coal is the nation's most abundant fossil fuel; yet, it is used to fill only 19 percent of the nation's energy needs. We11-identified recoverable coal reserves exist within the United States in sufficient quantity and with suitable mining characteristics (estimated to be 232 billion tons) to provide an annual production 3.5 times the 1976 production for the next 100 years. 2. Filling these requirements at a reasonable cost requires that the recent decrease in coal productivity per man-day, particularly in underground mining, be reversed without sacrificing health and safety standards. An increase in productivity will decrease coal mine capital and operating costs, and each ton of increased productivity per man-day can be expected to save the nation approximately $7 billion (1975 dollars) in the price paid for coal over the next 10 years. A reduction in wildcat strikes, absenteeism, and labor turnover and an improvement in worker training and acceptance of grievance procedures would make important contributions to improved productivity. 3. Increased amounts of coal (except metallurgical coal) can be expected to come primarily from: (a) surface minable reserves in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoiring, New Mexico, and Texas; (b) reserves in the Eastern Interior Field (i.e., Illinois, Indiana, and Western Kentucky); and (c) underground reserves in Utah, Colorado, Montana, and
Wyoming. The Appalachian Region will continue to supply a significant part of the nation's coal, including increased amounts for export and metallurgical purposes. 1. Much of the available coal in the eastern United States and significant tonnages of low-rank western coal, as mined or as physically cleaned using available techniques, cannot meet present SO2 emission standards. 5. Existing mining systems improved by a greater degree of mechanization and automatic control will continue to be used for at least the next 10 years. Improvements in underground mining systems and machinery are expected to result in increased productivity and improved miner health and safety. 6. Although no urgent coal-mining manpower shortage presently exists, the projected growth, attrition, and retirement replacement rate in the mining population indicates that manpower requirements are likely to double by 1990. Current education and training programs for new miners and mining engineers are of great value in achieving productivity, health and safety, and environmental objectives. 7. The need to move coal or its energy over increasingly long distances requires that environmentally acceptable, low-cost transportation systems be utilized. Possible methods include greater application of unit trains, water shipments, slurry pipelines, mine-mouth power plants with extra-high-voltage and ultra-high-voltage transmission lines, and mine-mouth conversion of coal to liquid or gaseous fuels with pipeline transmission. 8. More rapid transportation of coal from the mining face and improved roof support are required if productivity is to increase. Methane removal, dust control, and ventilation also are important areas for health and safety research in underground mining. Improved extraction and reclamation equipment, including integrated mining and reclamation systems, are required in surface mining. 9. A national energy policy that defines the role of coal in meeting future energy requirements is needed to encourage industry to make the long-range capital commitments necessary to develop domestic coal reserves to assist the nation in meeting basic energy needs. C. RECOMMENDATIONS 1. The use of coal and its by-products should be increased substantially during the next 25 years, with coal being used to provide a substantially larger portion of fixed-base energy requirements.
2. Federal, state, and local regulations concerning mine operation and the opening of new mines should be limited, consolidated, and coordinated to simplify procedures, permit timely decision-making, and encourage more rapid application of technological advances. 3. The coal industry, state governments, the federal government, and the universities should strengthen programs for recruiting, educating, training, retraining, and providing work experience for mining personnel. These programs should focus on high school graduates as well as persons having higher degrees, and funding should be provided for new facilities and for the operating and maintenance expenses of existing mining engineering schools. 4. Underground mining productivity per man-day should be increased at least to the levels achieved in the late 1960s while meeting health and safety standards, through improved labor-management relations, improved regulating climate, improved training programs, and broader application of improved mining technology. 5. Health, safety, and environmental conditions in underground mines should be improved by the application of better methods for removing methane gas from the coal seam prior to mining, the development of better roof control and ventilation and dust control equipment, and the increased utilization of automated equipment. 6. The environmental conditions in existing and new mining areas should be maintained and, if possible, improved. In underground mining, this will involve controlling drainage, acid mine water, refuse piles, dust, noise, and subsidence and in surface mining, maintaining the optimum environmental conditions for reclamation of the mined areas. 7. Clean, low-cost systems for moving coal or transporting its energy from the mine over long distances should be utilized and further developed. 8. An information program designed to inform the public of opportunities in the coal mining industry should be developed and adequately funded to stimulate the interest of young Americans in a mining career in the coal industry. This will contribute to meeting future energy needs.