By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief

The only trade show dedicated to underground coal operators in general and longwall mining in particular, the Longwall USA 2011 International Exhibition & Conference, kicks off June 21 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, Pa. Longwall mining equipment is large, robust and expensive. It’s also a safe method for mining large volumes of coal underground. With more mine operators looking to extract deep minable tons, the interest in Longwall USA has been high. Over the course of three days, more than 2,000 people are expected to visit the Longwall USA exhibition.

Longwall USA takes place every two years on the odd years in June. After the success of Longwall USA 2009, the trade show organizer opted for the larger medium size hall. If the trade show was measured simply by exhibit bookings, then the 2011 exposition would already be considered a success. This year more than 160 exhibitors will be on hand to showcase equipment and services. While that number is about the same as last time, the size of the space has grown.

For the first time in 2009, the conference portion of the event was held on the show floor. Most agreed that decision was wise and the conference will again take place toward the back of the exhibit area. The technical program consists of five sessions. On Wednesday, Coal Age will present three U.S. longwall operators with the Longwall USA Top Performers Award at a luncheon—proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund supported by the Pittsburgh section of SME. Conference delegates will get to hear presentations from more than 20 professionals involved with longwall mining.

Face Automation    
In his presentation, “Experience with Automated Shearer Faces in Australia,” Peter Henderson, principal electrical engineer, Xstrata Coal, will give details on the benefits of longwall automation. He will discuss the evolution of longwall automation showing how technology, when applied to modern longwall equipment, has improved safety, reliability and productivity within the Australian market.

Curt Taylor, longwall manager, Cliffs Natural Resources-Pinnacle mine, and Keith R. O’Neil, director, product management for the Bucyrus longwall group, will co-present: “Experience with Automated Plow Faces in the United States.” Plows can operate in seam thicknesses as low as 24 inches (0.6 meters). The presenters will describe the automated features and attributes of the new automated plow system that commenced service in November 2010 at the Pinnacle mine near Pineville, W.Va.

Health & Safety
In his presentation, “Proactive Risk Management for the Mining Industry,” Michael G. Nelson, chairman, Mining Engineering Dept., University of Utah, will discuss the differences in being proactive vs. reactive. Lasting changes to behavior control, whether individual or corporate, is achieved more successfully by proactive methods. Nelson’s presentation introduces the fundamental concepts of hazard identification and risk management, and some examples of successful application in mining practices.

Dennis Jackson, vice president, BST Solutions, will present: “A Blueprint for Safety Excellence.” To be effective, safety systems must be in alignment with, and supported by, other elements of the organization. Jackson will outline the five elements critical to comprehensive safety performance improvement, including organizational systems, leadership, culture and the working interface.

In her presentation, “Technology for Controlling Respirable Dust on Longwalls,” Deborah Tomko, chief, environmental assessment, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), will discuss results from previous case studies illustrating improvements in dust control. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also conducts research to identify and evaluate successful dust control technologies.  A portion of this research is focused upon controlling dust on longwall operations and recent research findings will be discussed.

John R. Zeiner Jr., associate service fellow, NIOSH will present: “Longwall Accident Review: Years 2000 to 2009.” An assessment of fatalities and nonfatal lost-time injuries will make comparisons between longwall mines vs. non-longwall mines and longwall production vs. longwall development. Zeiner will discuss key findings and offer suggestions for improving safety at longwall mines.

Ventilation Roundtable
Federal regulations require the use of a bleeder system in coal mines during and after pillar recovery, including longwall mining, to control the air passing through the area and to continuously dilute and move methane-air mixtures and other gases, dusts and fumes from the worked-out area away from active workings and into a return air course or to the surface of the mine, until the area is sealed. However, for those mines with a history of spontaneous combustion, federal regulations permit an alternative method (bleederless) to be approved in the mine ventilation plan. These bleederless systems are based on a completely different concept than bleeder systems, and many different concerns arise and control measures are needed.

The roundtable discussion will begin with a short presentation, “Current MSHA Practices and Policies on Gob Ventilation,” from Dennis A. Beiter, mining engineer, MSHA Ventilation Division. Then a group of longwall mining professionals (See Technical Program Outline) will share their thoughts on current ventilation practices.

Emerging Technologies
In his presentation, “MagneLink Magnetic Communication System,” Warren Gross, product manager, MagneLink, Lockheed Martin, will provide details on a self contained two-way through-the-earth (TTE) wireless system, providing post accident emergency voice, text and beacon communications between miners and rescue personnel on the surface at ranges sufficient to service most deep mines.

Jacob Carr, research engineer, NIOSH, will present: “State of the Art in Proximity Detection Technology for Underground Coal Mining.” The underground mining environment offers uniquely difficult challenges to the implementation of proximity detection systems. Carr’s presentation will provide an overview of the current state-of-the-art in proximity detection for underground coal mines and a summary of the industry’s success to date in implementing these systems.

In his presentation, “Personal Proximity Detection Systems (PPDSs) for Longwalls,” Marco Ahler, manager, innovation center Europe, Bucyrus, will discuss recent advancements in the reliability and effectiveness of personal proximity detection technology. Discussions regarding the use of PPDSs typically focus on its application with respect to room-and-pillar equipment. However, a longwall system also represents an area where PPDSs’ can be used to deliver an enhanced level of operator safety.

Co-presenters Gordon Scott with PB Engineering and Kurt Carlson with Becker Mining Systems will discuss “Arc Mitigation.” Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the awareness of arc flash hazards and the injuries resulting from the lack of adequate PPE. With an increase in electrical energy requirements, miners are being exposed to higher energy levels more than ever before. Quantifying the dangers of arc flash events in energized low and medium voltage electrical equipment is now mandatory.

Development & Operations
In their presentation, “Rapid Longwall Entry Development; Development and Introduction of a Simultaneous Cut and Bolt Miner,” Mike McMillion, senior mechanical, CONSOL Energy, and Jez Leeming, manager of mining systems, Joy Mining Machinery, will review the development of the mid- to high-seam simultaneous cut and bolt machine, the Joy 12ED25, including the challenges to design suitable mesh handling, materials handling, ventilation and auto cycles for cutting and roof bolting.

Dakota Faulkner, R&D/mechanical engineer, Keystone Mining Services, will present: “New Ground Control Technology for Longwall Entry Support.” New ground control designs to deal with the unique geologic and stress conditions for longwall entry support has been developed. In this presentation, four of the most recently developed systems will be discussed.

In his presentation, “Bleederless Longwall Ventilation Systems at OKD,” Josef Hájek, ventilation engineer, OKD, provides technical information on bleederless longwall ventilation systems, designing procedures and measures applied in longwall operations at OKD mines in Czech Republic. He will discuss the calculation methodology used in determining the volumetric air flow.

Derrick Bradbury with Canyon Fuel Co., and Mike Robertson with Phoenix Environmental Technologies, will present: “Reverse Osmosis System for Longwall Coal Mining.” The Sufco coal mine recently purchased a reverse osmosis (RO) system to remove impurities in the water being mixed with the hydraulic oil to maintain the viability of critical longwall hydraulic systems and to prevent degradation. This project not only ensured hydraulic components from corrosion, but also revealed a cost savings by reducing the percentage of hydraulic oil mixed with the RO water.