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Virtual Tour of Riverview Coal Mine, August 21, 2020 Part 2

Aug 21, 2020, 13:36 PM by Jessica Bloomer
Part 2 - blog recap of virtual coal mine tour on August 21, 2020

Blog Topic: Management of and recycling efforts for unused materials in coal mining process

Names: Jory Gould and Swade Barned

Despite the challenges presented by the current pandemic, the Riverview Coal Mine tour was very informative and allowed us to get a good idea of what processes occur in a coal mining operation, as well as the accompanying safety measures. One particular topic that was discussed during the virtual tour was the process of how unused and used materials were recycled or disposed of. In terms of ground materials, the coal dust that comes from the mining is mixed with water in a surface pond. Once the dust and other waste settles to the bottom to be collected, the water is taken off the top and reused, keeping water usage at a lower level. The primary waste that is generated underground during mining is a water-dust mixture as well. Water is sprayed while machines are mining out coal to suppress the dust that is produced from this process. The water collects the dust and settles to the ground. Once the water has settled on the ground, it is still recycled further. While the water remains on the ground, it serves as another dust suppressant for vehicle tires, not only preventing dust from being suspended in the air, but also eliminating the need for more water. This underground water is naturally absorbed into the Earth, so typically no removal is necessary. If water does collect in some seams, a hole will be dug for the water to drain into. This water will then be pumped to the surface and collected with other waste materials in the surface pond. It was also very interesting to observe that the Riverview Coal Mine is so environmentally friendly that a meat processing and packaging plant is able to operate not even a football field away. Overall, the tour was very informational and was a beneficial learning experience. Although we would love to go back and get to physically visit a coal mine, this presentation allowed us to grasp the general processes and safety implementations at the plant and we are very grateful to the Riverview Coal Mine for this opportunity.  

Riverview Coal published photo aerial view Aug 2020 DJI_0199

Virtual walkthrough of Riverview Underground Coal Mine by Jaijian Ding and Xinyi Niu

The virtual tour to Riverview Underground Coal Mine on Friday, August 21, 2020, was very educational for me. Riverview Coal has two levels of underground coalmines for mining, 280 feet and 400 feet from the earth’s surface. 

Ken Ford, general manager of Riverview, and our guide, stated that the coal was mainly used to make steel and generate electricity. Miners transport coal to the surface through conveyors, tractors, loaders, and other equipment from the coal mining face. The coal transported to the surface will be processed into clean coal, and then transported to the dock through the recovery tunnel, and then transported by barge ship to customers. The miners are completely exposed to the noise environment in the working face area of the underground coalmine.

Ken emphasized throughout the tour that noise is one of the occupational hazards that endangers the safety of miners. Noise can cause underground miners to experience severe noise-induced hearing loss, making them unresponsive to audio alarms or voice warnings and making it difficult to observe various disaster signals underground. The occupational noise-induced related hearing loss increases the possibility of accidents, seriously affecting mine safety. In order to effectively control noise, Riverview Coal implements noise control measures to manage exposure to noise.

Since all kinds of underground machinery and equipment are the main sources of noise, mine staff promptly replaces worn components and observe good maintenance, ensuring that the equipment is in good condition, and reduce the sound decibels from the source. 

In addition, Ken has repeatedly emphasized the importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the mine. According to statistics, unsafe behaviors account for 96% of occupational injuries. Therefore, the mine stipulates that all workers entering the mine must wear protective devices to ensure safety. Hearing Protective Devices (HPD) mainly refers to ear muffs, ear plugs, etc., which could effectively reduce the amount of noise that reaches workers' ears. Ken said that the mine will distribute earplugs to miners, but in the mine environment, sometimes miners feel that earplugs may interfere with the miners’ communication, and possibly cause miners to ignore the warning sounds of mechanical equipment. Therefore, it is difficult for miners wear HPD at all times. In order to ensure safe and effective use of HPD, the mine conducts a comprehensive hearing protection program, including proper training to educate minors regarding safe and effective use of HPD.

Meanwhile, reducing the time miners are exposed to the noise environment is also particularly important. Each mineworker adopts a shift system to control the daily working hours of each miner.

Runcheng Fang and Ada Jesuthason Blog Entry

Safety Features of Underground Mine Vehicles and Equipment.

In this tour of Riverview Coalmine, we took a closer look underground to view the production unit and the process of how coal is safely extracted.

Equipment used in coal mining facilitates transportation, mechanical, electrical, and water control, ventilation, safety monitoring, dispatching, and communication equipment, as well as,  gas, dust, and fire prevention. The equipment includes safety features to prevent injuries to operators and damage to a variety of facilities within the production unit.

In each production unit, there are two Continuous Miner machines, which cut and grind the coal. The extracted coal is transferred to a shuttle car that transports it to a conveyor belt. Within the unit, there are six shuttle cars in operation that alternate to transport the coal to the conveyor belt to improve efficiency. Additionally, roof bolters and cable bolts are used to support the roof from collapsing as the Continuous Miner moves forward with the drilling. These weighty machines come with plenty of safety features, although proper safety training is required before operating them. The necessary safety training improves the quality of safety for the employees and reduces occupational hazards. 

In addition, the Continuous Miner uses a proximity detector, which will stop the equipment when it senses if someone is too close. It also carries a feature where it sprays water during drilling to eliminate dust collection. The shuttle cars are large vehicles. Due to the large size and space constriction, the shuttle cars can only be maneuvered by using the cameras attached.  While using a Roof Bolter, there is a T-Bar that is latched to the roof in three places that prevents the roof from collapsing on the operator and a hollow drill bit is used to collect dust. The Ventilation system inside the mine includes ventilation curtains, a 10 ft fan and two 9 ft fans. This carries the dust down to the ends of the mining phase ensuring there is proper airflow inside. The control box that provides high voltage power to all equipment carry multiple cables, but they are heavily insulated to prevent electric leaks. Maintenance and safety audits are performed on a regular basis, where the goal is to eliminate risk factors, such as equipment malfunction, and check facilities, tools, and other potentially unsafe conditions. Preventative measures are taken to prevent occupational hazards accordingly.

Blog Entry by Elizabeth Keller

The University of Cincinnati (UC) Education and Research Center (ERC) held a virtual field trip experience on August 21, 2020. We went to the Riverview Underground Coal Mine, an entity of the Alliance Coal company. There were 22 interdisciplinary participants present, represented by students and faculty involved in nursing, industrial hygiene, occupational safety engineering, and medicine. 

The tour began with an informative presentation describing the different safety procedures in place to prevent hazardous working conditions for the employees of the mine. Historically, mining was thought of as a very dangerous occupation, but this company works with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to adopt compliant and safe operating strategies. They also maintain early detection devices to prevent incidences and injuries before they occur. For example, there are locatable carbon monoxide monitors throughout the mine, tracking tags on helmets, routine checks on dust perimeters and machinery, sampling of noise regularly, and safety audits frequently completed by supervisors. They reviewed the rescue and evacuation procedures, which include lifelines that lead employees out of the mine in case of a fire. These practices paired with the PPE requirements and educational training for staff are in place to promote a positive culture of safety and ensure healthy working conditions. 

Thank you to Riverview and Alliance Coal for providing this experience for our ERC students and faculty!

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Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences
Education and Research Center (ERC)
Kettering Lab Building
Room 440
160 Panzeca Way
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056
Mail Location: 0056
Phone: 513-558-5710
Fax: 513-558-2722
Email: erccoor@uc.edu