A supporting role in long wall mining

Paul Boughton

Hydraulic roof support systems are critical to longwall mining and to the safety of the miners

The practice of longwall mining has been developed and refined with the use of hydraulic roof support systems, which provide support at the coalface to allow the shearer to cut the coal from the seam. Each support can weigh 30-40 tonnes and be rated at 1000-1750 tonnes and also have the ability to hydraulically advance itself one metre at a time.

As the roof supports advance, so the roof of the mine is allowed to collapse behind them and the shearer continues to pull the coal from the seam. This all makes the roof support system of critical importance to the mining operation and to the safety of the miners involved in operating the machinery. Any equipment which is selected to operate in this hazardous environment must be proven in reliability and require a minimum level of maintenance.

The efficient operation of the roof support system directly affects the productivity of the mine and any down-time on the system in such a difficult operating environment would be very counter-productive. The reliable performance of these systems is essential if the client is to maximise output from the mine and return on investment.

The Kopex group, a supplier of mining equipment and technology, is delivering a turnkey solution for the Vladimirskaya longwall coal mine in Russia. Part of this project is the powered roof support system to be installed at the coalface itself. Kopex has awarded the supply of the critical pumping systems to RMI Pressure Systems Ltd, Manchester, UK.

The roof support systems require a power source and this takes the form of a sophisticated hydraulic pump capable of producing extremely high pressures. The reliability of these pumps must also be beyond any doubt and bench testing has to be carried out for thousands of hours to ensure their operation in the mine will be faultless. In this case, Kopex has selected RMI Pressure Systems, which has a proven track record in the mining industry and has considerable experience in supplying equipment for the longwall mining operation.

RMI has delivered three Trimax S300 pumps to power the roof support system, each capable of providing 244 litres/min at up to 353 bar, as well as two of Trimax S300 pumps for the water pumping system, which are cable of providing 319 litres/min at up to 92 bar. The entire contract also includes a service and spares package as well to ensure continued reliable service.

In 2012, the Russian government approved a long-term investment plan for the coal industry, with $123 billion to be invested over the next 17 years. This is deemed necessary to meet the future requirements for coal which is used to generate 25% of the electricity requirement in Russia. Coal production from the underground mines is expected to increase by nearly 50% over the next 20 years.

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