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Coal Mining Equipment 101: Borers And Coal Cutting Machines

Modern coal mining equipment is like nothing else you have ever seen. It is no longer coal cars on a rails and men with pickaxes and shovels, but extremely large, heavy construction-type equipment. If you have never been in a coal mine before, you may be very surprised to see the following pieces of equipment in use.

Longwall Machines

These astounding machines are the size of an extra large dump truck but bore through mining tunnels like gophers through gopher holes. There is a platform in the middle, shielded by a large overhanging, roof-like plate. On either side is a set of rotary cutters that cut huge slabs of coal out of the mine's walls and drop it on a conveyor belt, which then takes the coal out of the mine. Two miners generally operate this massive machine, standing on the platform in the center to operate the controls. Since they are protected by the long, overhanging plate above, the ceilings of the mine are allowed to collapse behind them as the machine bores through. If the ceiling does collapse, the overhanging plate creates a large air pocket which protects the miners from suffocation.

Continuous Miners

If a coal mining company does not use a longwall machine, they might use a continuous miner. This machine is similar in appearance to a frontloader in that it has a lift arm on the front end. On the end of that lift arm are a series of rotary cutting balls, very similar to the same ones used on a longwall machine. The continuous miner begins the cutting process into the mountain or the area of the earth where coal is suspected to exist. It then continues the mining process, cutting away everything in front of it and above it in an up-down and forward motion. There is nothing added onto the machine to protect miners from a cave-in, so it is generally used with great caution or used in conjunction with a roof bolter.

Roof bolter

A roof bolter is somewhat self-explanatory. It bolts the roofs of coal mines up so that fewer cave-ins occur. However, the very size of this machine is formidable and on par with the sizes of the other heavy construction equipment used to bore through the earth to collect coal. Often, a roof bolter will follow after a continuous miner, bolting up the ceiling to protect the miners who operate the continuous miner machine. At the end of the work day, the roof bolter and its operators may exit the tunnel completely, while the mining and boring machines may remain.

For more information about large mining equipment, contact a company like Don Leslie Supply, Inc.