By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief

The Pittsburgh Convention Center will once again host the Longwall USA Conference & Exhibition, June 11-13, 2013. As many as 2,000 people are expected to turn out for the event, which is widely believed to be the biggest trade show for underground coal operators in general and longwall managers in particular. The Iron City is a great location simply because many of the U.S. longwall mines cut coal from the Pittsburgh No. 8 seam in the region. Likewise, many of the companies that provide services for these longwalls are also located nearby. Being a world-class city, longwall miners from around the U.S.—and the world for that matter—can easily attend the three-day trade show.

In addition to a peer-reviewed technical program, more than 100 vendors will showcase their services during the exposition. They are listed in alphabetical order on the pages that follow this article. Longwall USA also affords longwall enthusiasts the chance to mix with their peers at several social events. The Pittsburgh Pirates are in town and the ball park in only a short walk from the convention center across the Allegheny River.

The centerpiece for Longwall USA is the conference’s technical program. More than 20 experts will deliver presentations covering new development in technology, safety, operations and maintenance in five 2-hour sessions. Coal Age will present awards to the top peforming U.S. longwall during the keynote luncheon on Wednesday. Seth Schwartz with Energy Ventures Analysis will deliver the keynote. Tickets for this event are limited. Professional development hours are available for engineers attending the conference.

New Developments & Technologies
The conference kicks off Tuesday morning (June 11) at 9 a.m. In his presentation, Grosvenor Longwall Project—Design for Benchmark Safety and Productivity, Anglo American Coal’s Dieter Haage will explain the approach followed and the outcome achieved in support of benchmark safety and productivity for the Grosvenor mine.

While the U.S. is the leader in North America, several longwalls operate in Mexico. Joel de Luna, general manager of the Micare mine, will discuss longwall mining at Micare Mine VII, which began operations in November 2012.

In his presentation, Fluid Power Generation & Transport Systems for Longwalls, Frank Dulin, from Swanson Industries, will discuss hardware recommendations for monorail mounted pumps, including placement strategies and maintenance needs. The session will conclude with a presentation by Dakota Faulkner, R&D engineer for Keystone Mining Services. He will provide an update on new ground support systems for longwall gate roads.

Safety & Health
The second session begins on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Dr. Lori Guasta, director of organizational behavior and emerging markets for Safety Solutions International, will present, Measurement Before Management: Best Practices for Assessing Safety Culture. She will discuss how to assess a company’s safety culture and develop and implement a culture enhancement plan. Emphasis will be given to the importance of measuring or assessing culture before attempting to manage it.

In his presentation, A Review of Dust Control Techniques for Longwalls, Joe Defibaugh, engineer, dust and ventilation, JoyGlobal, will discuss better ways to control respirable dust levels and the impact of future regulations for dust control in longwall mines.

Marcia Harris from NIOSH will discuss rock dusting practices to effectively inert the coal dust production during the longwall mining process.

Dr. Jürgen F. Brune, Colorado School of Mines (CSM), will present Control of Explosive Zones and Oxygen Penetration in Longwall Gobs through Nitrogen Injection. In a project sponsored by NIOSH, CSM researchers have used computational fluid dynamics modeling to simulate the flow of methane, oxygen and nitrogen in longwall gobs.

The session will conclude with Completing the Development of Longwall Foam Dust Suppression, by Dr. Paul A. Kittle with Aquafoam. He will discuss a new form of dust control at the shearer.

Proximity Detection
The third session (Wednesday, June 12, 9-11 a.m.) will focus on proximity detection systems. Michael B. McMillion, senior mechanical engineer, coal operations support, with CONSOL Energy will present Personal Proximity Detection for Underground Coal Mining Equipment. He will discuss CONSOL Energy’s experience with proximity detection starting with continuous miner sections two years ago and progressing forward to new systems for longwalls today.

In his presentation, Proximity Detection in Mine Wide Applications for Underground Coal, Mike Berube, president and COO, Strata Worldwide, will discuss the challenges in developing and implementing proximity detection systems underground.

Joseph DuCarme, mechanical engineer, NIOSH, will present Intelligent Proximity Detection Technology for Underground Coal Mines. NIOSH researchers have developed the Intelligent Proximity Detection System, which is designed to provide intelligent protection by disabling only potentially hazardous machine motions. This system is built using off-the-shelf proximity detection hardware along with software developed by NIOSH researchers.

The session will conclude with Matrix Technology and Experience in Proximity Detection by Aric Pryor, president, Matrix Design Group. He will also discuss the design, testing and production deployment of proximity detection systems in the U.S.

Face Automation
The afternoon session on Wednesday  at 2 p.m. will discuss longwall automation. The session will open with a presentation from Mike Calderone, manager, controls and automation systems, JoyGlobal, and Scott Langley, COO, White Oak Resources, titled Partnering to Develop a Productive Automated Longwall System. They will review the partnering that took place between a longwall operator and a supplier to develop a world-class longwall system incorporating the benefits of the latest automation technologies.

In his presentation, Application of Shearer Automation in Australia, Stephen Douglas, project manager with automation responsibilities, Eickhoff, will share experiences encountered from an OEM perspective on the journey to apply automation. Douglas believes it’s the small ideas and the intermediate steps that will take longwall automation to the next level, and an inside view could result in more action globally.

Zbigniew Stopa, vice president, Lubelski Wegiel Bogdanka S.A., will present Longwall Extraction of Thin Seams at Poland’s Bogdanka Mine Using VFD Technology. In 2012, Bogdanka started a second plow face, but this time based upon variable frequency drives (VFDs). He will provide an overview of the VFD technology and compare operational experiences between conventional and VFD-powered systems.

Reinhard Neuper with Kopex Machinery will present Automated Longwall Systems: The Pniówek Experience. He will cover the control system options of electrical equipment, AFCs, powered roof supports with electrohydraulic control system and SCADA. The KSW-460NE1 shearer offers web mapping as an internal function of the control system for the shearers and the capability of direct control from the overriding control system.

Reliability & Performance
The final session takes place Thursday, June 13, at 9 a.m. The session kicks off with Michael J. Fidel, manager maintenance, San Juan Coal Co., presenting Asset Reliability at the San Juan Mine. High asset reliability is paramount to any capital intensive business. Successful reliability programs limit risk, increase runtime and reduce cost. Reliability initiatives are not maintenance centric, but a collaborative effort from all line functions within the business.

In his presentation, Challenges for Successful Ground Fault Protection of VFDs Used in Underground Coal Mining, Bobby Houston, Intermountain Electronics will discuss the issues longwall operators have to consider when installing VFDs in underground coal mining applications. One issue for consideration involves the performance of ground fault protection devices when applied with a VFD operating at various speeds (See Underground Safety Equipment, p. 44).

Haage will return again to present: Smart Services in Support of Benchmark Longwall Production. Anglo American is currently engaged in a smart service partnership with JoyGlobal related to longwall operations at Moranbah North. This presentation is intended to show how the partnership with JoyGlobal has performed and what benefits Anglo American has realized.

Kirby Owen and Thomas Vallant, Sanvik Mining will present Faster Roadway Development: Slow Cutting for Higher Productivity and Safety. They will discuss the development productivity improvements achieved by the MB610. Its unique slow cutting speed provides high cutting forces, resulting in an increased cutting rate and reduced dust creation. Crews at CONSOL Energy’s Bailey mine have advanced a total of 17,700 m (58,000 ft), with an average shift advance of 36.7 m (120 ft) during 2012.

The technical program concludes with Impact of Corrosion on Mining Equipment by J.V. Pellegrino Jr., RJ Lee Group, USA.

He demonstrates the impact of corrosion on various longwall components.