Coal mining



Coal mining is the process of extracting coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content and since the 1880s, has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production.
The Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the 18th century and later spread to continental Europe and North America, was based on the availability of coal to power steam engines. International trade expanded rapidly when coal-fed steam engines were built for the railways and steamships.
When coal seams are near the surface, it may be economical to extract the coal using open cut (also referred to as open cast, open pit, mountaintop removal or strip) mining methods. Opencast coal mining recovers a greater proportion of the coal deposit than underground methods, as more of the coal seams in the strata may be exploited. This equipment can include the following: Draglines which operate by removing the overburden, power shovels, large trucks in which transport overburden and coal, bucket wheel excavators, and conveyors. In this mining method, explosives are first used in order to break through the surface or overburden, of the mining area. The overburden is then removed by draglines or by shovel and truck. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is drilled, fractured and thoroughly mined in strips. The coal is then loaded onto large trucks or conveyors for transport to either the coal preparation plant or directly to where it will be used.
The limitations of contour strip mining are both economic and technical. When the operation reaches a predetermined stripping ratio (tons of overburden/tons of coal), it is not profitable to continue. Depending on the equipment available, it may not be technically feasible to exceed a certain height of highwall. At this point, it is possible to produce more coal with the augering method in which spiral drills bore tunnels into a highwall laterally from the bench to extract coal without removing the overburden.
Firedamp explosions can trigger the much-more-dangerous coal dust explosions, which can engulf an entire pit. Most of these risks can be greatly reduced in modern mines, and multiple fatality incidents are now rare in some parts of the developed world. Modern mining in the US results in approximately 30 deaths per year due to mine accidents.
Germany has a long history of coal mining, going back to the Middle Ages. Coal mining greatly increased during the industrial revolution and the following decades. The main mining areas were around Aachen, the Ruhr and Saar area, along with many smaller areas in other parts of Germany. These areas grew and were shaped by coal mining and coal processing, and this is still visible even after the end of the coal mining.
Many coalfields were developed in the industrial revolution. The oldest were in Newcastle and Durham, South Wales, the Central Belt of Scotland and the Midlands, such as those at Coalbrookdale. The oldest continuously worked deep-mine in the United Kingdom was Tower Colliery in the South Wales coalfield. This colliery was developed in 1805, and its miners bought it out at the end of the 20th century, to prevent it from being closed. Tower Colliery was finally closed on 25 January 2008.