Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Report recommends improvements in retreat mining
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 8, 2006) - Retreat mining safety in Kentucky can be improved if recommended changes in roof control plans, training and geological data collection are adopted, according to a report released today by the state Department for Natural Resources. The report, prepared by consulting engineers, was requested by Governor Ernie Fletcher following the deaths of four Kentucky miners from June 2004 to August 2005 in retreat mining accidents.
Retreat mining, also known as pillar removal, involves cutting and retrieving pillars of coal that support the mine roof. The practice results in an intentional roof fall.
"The safety of Kentucky’s miners has been a top priority of our administration and we had serious concerns regarding the safety implications of retreat mining," Governor Fletcher said. "Implementing these recommendations will strengthen our other efforts to improve mine safety in the state."
Researchers from Marshall Miller & Associates, Lexington, evaluated 34 coal mines actively engaged in retreat mining in eastern Kentucky. The report estimates there are more than 100 mines in eastern Kentucky with approved plans to conduct retreat mining. These mines produce one-third to one-half of the 52 million tons of underground coal mined annually in eastern Kentucky.
The report recommends changes to roof control plans. Among the recommendations:
• Minimize workers near the active pillar line, where the pillars are being removed.
• Require use of the Analysis of Retreat Mining Pillar Stability (ARMPS) calculations, a modeling tool for predicting roof stability and pillar strength.
• Acquire additional engineering and site-specific geologic information for mining near abandoned or inactive mines.
"The report recommends several practices to improve mine safety during retreat mining," said LaJuana S. Wilcher, secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. "They are practical recommendations, and we believe that they can and should be implemented in Kentucky. These recommendations do not require statutory changes."
The report also says additional information should be included in roof control plans to address the removal of the "pushout stump" - the last part of the pillar to be removed in retreat mining.
Miners should be better trained in geological conditions inside the mine and have a better working knowledge of the roof control plans and retreat mining plans, according to the report. Improved training materials should also be prepared that specifically address retreat mining, the study says.
The study is posted for public access through Web sites of the Department for Natural Resources, www.dnr.ky.gov <http://www.dnr.ky.gov>, and the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, www.omsl.ky.gov <http://www.omsl.ky.gov>.