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SUFCO Coal Mine

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The Southern Utah Fuel Co. Mine (SUFCO) is an underground coalmine located 31 miles (50 km) east of Salina, Central Utah, which produces 6.8 metric tons of coal per year (as recorded in 2005).

Owned by Arch Coal and mined by Canyon Fuel Co., it has been producing copper since 1941. The mine initially began as a room and pillar mine and was converted into a longwall mine when operations resumed.

The SUFCO mine, employing 252 people, is one of the largest producers of coal in Utah.

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[edit] Construction History

When the mine was opened in 1941 as a room and pillar operation, it was constructed into a series of rooms from which coal was extracted and the supporting pillars were left behind as unrecoverable ore. A continuous miner, a machine that cuts and extracts ore and loads it onto a conveyor system, was used. Because of the flat seams, the room and pillar method was able to extract enough valuable ore to afford the abandonment of ore found in the pillars. Usually room and pillar mines are abandoned because attempting to recover the ore results in the mine collapsing, but the operation can resume by replacing the rooms with backfill waste.

The longwall mining operation commenced in 1985, the mine consisting of a cretaceous-age Blackhawk formation ranging from 6.9 to 20 feet (2.1 to 6.1 m) thick and a flat seam of 13.5 feet (4.1 m) and 1,099 feet (335 m) of overburden. The work areas are 9.9 miles (16 km) from the entrance of the East Spring Canyon entrance. By 1998, the face equipment that is currently employed was installed. The project was mined for a minimum seam thickness of 8.2 feet (2.5 m). Most of the mining that took place involved smaller panel operations. Each of the panels was mined by a series of equipment. Upon completion, the equipment used would be moved to the next panel, a move which took anywhere between eight and 12 days. The 5,200 tons of machinery is moved as much as 3.7 miles (6 km) in the underground mine shaft, a process that occurs once a year on average.

The first major "super panel" was Panel 18, with a face as long as 928 feet (283 m) and a panel length of 2.7 miles (4.3 km). In 2000, Panel 22 was mined, consisting of a length of 3.5 miles (5.7 km); it produced 6.9 metric tons of coal.

In mid-2004, Arch Coal acquired the full ownership of mine operator Canyon Fuel Co. Previously it was jointly shared between Arch Coal at 65 percent and Japanese interest at 35 percent. The acquisition enabled the mining operation to expand its resource base to 145 metric tons.[1]

The remaining reserves of the longwall mine are limited. The last seven panels contained approximately 41 metric tons of recoverable coal. The longwall face operation is mined by a series of equipment, including a Joy 7LS-3 shearer that is complemented with a line of Joy face support shields and a Deutsche Bergbau Technik (DBT) amored face conveyor and a stage loader. The shearer, with a 1,110-kilowatt capacity, moves between 26 and 39.4 feet (8 and 12 m) per minute along the face and cuts a 3.5-foot (1.07-m) wide strip of coal off the face of every pass. The coal is crushed -1.9 inches (-50 mm) with an MMD 500 pick-type sizer and collected by a conveyor system that carries the production of 2,300 tons per hour with its 2,700-ton per hour capacity and the ore is transported out of the mine to be processed.

Continuous miners are used within in the mine, as in many longwall operations. The time-consuming process involves the miner moving along the working face, extracting coal with its cutting steel drum and bucket and loading it onto a conveyor system. The continuous mine makes use of the three-entry gateroad systems employed by SUFCO and mined by Joy 12CM12 continuous miners. The miners, in turn, convey the mined material on a Joy 10SC32C 18-ton capacity shuttle car. This series of machinery is joined by a Joy four-head roof bolter that installs support for the gateroad.

Being the largest producer of coal in Utah, the steam coal production is exported from a port in Los Angeles and shipped to its Japanese customers. Because of the nature of the rugged terrain in which the mine is located, access is limited and restricted to rail transportation. Each day’s production, approximately 27,000 tons, can be stored in the mine’s storage unit but is usually transported via truck distances more than 81 miles (130 km) to one of two Union Pacific rail lines. Each truck contains a tractor unit and two trailers in its 38-ton capacity unit.[2]

[edit] Recent News

SUFCO has incorporated a PED system to improve its data system and increase safety within the mine’s day-to-day operations. The system comprises two transmitters that power two 2.5-mile (4-km) long antennas to provide signal to all the roadways in the mine.[3]

In November 2007, the longwall portion of the mine was closed following a "bounce" event. A bounce occurs when underground materials collapse due to the geologic pressure inside a mine or a seismic tremor.[4]

[edit] Equipment Used

[edit] References

  1. SUFCO Coal Mine, UT, USA. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-25.
  2. SUFCO Coal Mine, UT, USA. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-25.
  3. Sufco. Mine Site Technologies, 2008-09-25.
  4. Fidel, Steve. Part of mine closed after 'bounce'. BNET, November, 2007. (accessed: 2008-09-25)