Longwall systems that employ plows have evolved and today represent an attractive alternative for automated mining especially with low seams
Nowadays technically efficient and economically viable underground mining systems play a more and more important role worldwide. Longwall mining systems present the most effective extraction method, capable of annually producing several million tons from a single mining system. The extraction of thick seams is fully occupied by shearers, which work effectively even under difficult geological conditions. In thin seams, however, plows deliver the highest efficiency.
Contemporary plow systems are designed to extract seams with a thickness below 3 ft to 6 ft, sometimes up to 10 ft (Ibbenbueren mine in Germany), and they stay in the seam without cutting the adjoining rock in the roof or floor. Modern plow systems are remotely controlled either from an entry or from the surface. Due to the principle of operation, remote-control capability, sophisticated power supply, and unique level of automation, the plow systems are capable of working very efficiently and safely. This article reviews some important high-performance plow applications worldwide and discusses the future developments for this mining method.