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MECHANIZATION WITH A VIEW TO PHASE-OUT MANUAL

LOADING
&
TO IMPROVE SAFETY STANDARDS

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 There is no second opinion that the ever increasing energy needs of the
nation will have to be met, and coal being the primary source of energy, has
to play a major role in the coming years for sustainable development of our
country. The country’s coal production programme as envisaged in the ‘Vision
Coal – 2025’ document is a quantum leap from the existing level of around
430.85 MT in 2007-08, being the terminal year of Xth 5 year plan, as can be
seen from the table given below.

Producing Company XI Plan XII Plan XIII Plan XIV Plan


(2011-12) (2016-17) (2021-22) (2025)
(Production envisaged in M.T)
M/s CIL 536 653 755 839
Coal Equivalent - 5 15 25
CBM/UCG
M/s SCCL 41 45 47 47
Others 44 75 125 175
Grand Total 621 778 942 1086

The national coal mining scenario during past six decades reveals that share
of opencast mining, which was as low as 14% in 1951, has sky rocketed to
the current level of above 80%, while underground coal production declined
from 76% in 1971 to 20% as on date. However, in contrast, coal production in
the coming decades will have to predominantly rely on underground mining
as mentioned supra.

1.2 Perpetually changing scenario due to unpredictable nature of geo-technical


environment while mining minerals/coal makes mining one of the most
hazardous peacetime occupations. This highly unpredictable and varying
nature of working conditions in the mines exposes workpersons to dangerous
conditions. Such conditions enjoin upon Indian state, mine operators,
scientific mining institutions to take appropriate measures to reduce density
of workpersons at potentially high risk zones i.e., moving front of drivages
and depillaring workings, to reduce accidents. Limited potential of opencast
reserves coupled with environmental considerations, land acquisition issues
and availability of better grade coal at depth will renew the focus of coal
industry to extract coal from deeper horizons by underground methods. At
these mining depths, the only course left for ensuring ever increasing
production needs with high safety standards is to introduce intense
mechanization compatible to the geo-mining requirements. Therefore, for the
mining industry to gear up for such daunting situations ahead, it is imperative
that the present day manual mining situation be totally phased out and a
carefully designed mechanization era be introduced.

1.3 Considering the safety scenario of the last decade, in spite of exercising
utmost vigil by way of supervision and inspections in underground mine
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faces, 38.76 % the accidents occurred on account of roof and side fall of
which 58.50% accidents occurred at inbye ends.

2.0 MANUAL MINING

2.1 Despite such dismal statistics, large scale deployment of manpower for coal
evacuation by primitive method of carrying coal loaded baskets right at
potentially high risk work sites in mines is still being practiced. Many a times,
accidents at such sites have involved many causalities and serious injuries.
Carrying wet coal basket with trickling coal laden water on their faces and
body, face loaders had to reluctantly put up with such drudgery. This problem
assumes another dimension, that of the present day workforce tending to
wean away from such work situations because of the fast changing work
culture and available alternative livelihood.

3.0 MULTIFARIOUS ACTIVITIES AT FACES

3.1 Human tendency is to live in compatible and comfortable environment.


“Mining face” in no way provides this solace. Therefore, miners tend to
quickly carryout their assigned jobs at the work places and take rest outbye,
resulting in multifarious activities and crowding of faces. Consequently, many
people simultaneously get exposed to high risk zones. Obviously, in the event
of a dangerous occurrence, many people get involved.

4.0 GROUND MOVEMENT

4.1 By far, ground movement at inbye ends has resulted into many accidents,
particularly in development faces and caving panels. Many a times, the much
needed falls in the goaf have over shot the goaf edge supports, resulting into
roof fall accidents involving persons deployed in working faces/roadways.

4.2 Accidents due to ground movement

4.2.1 Trend in causes of fatal accidents during last 3 years (2004 – 2006) in coal
mines at National level indicate that roof and side fall contributed 28% of
total fatal accidents i.e. 75 fatal accidents occurred due to ground movement
out of 268 fatal accidents (all causes). The figures for M/s ECL, one of the
most labour intensive subsidiaries of M/s CIL, revealed that between 1998
and 2006, while the number of face machinery went up by more than 300%,
the number of fatalities registered a steep fall.

4.2.2 The safety scenario in the mines of M/s SECL - another subsidiary of M/s CIL is
also equally encouraging. A variety of various face mechanization approaches
implemented in the last decade in the underground mines of this subsidiary
have resulted in the drastic fall of fatalities due to roof/side falls from 6 in
1997 to 2 in 2006 while the serious accidents for the same period registered
a fall from 10 in the year 1997 to 6 in the year 2006. During assessment of
safety performance in the mines of M/s SECL, it was noticed that fatality rates
per M.T of coal production were 0.343 and 0.697 for mechanized and manual
operations respectively for the year 1999 whereas the serious injury rates in
the same year for mechanized as well as manual mining operations were
0.991 and 2.323 respectively. There is a positive trend towards reduction of
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the fatality and serious injury rates with advanced mechanization in the
subsequent years resulting in a fatality rate of 0.071 and 0.847 for the
mechanized and manual mines respectively, and a serious injury rate of
0.676 and 10.171 for the mechanized and manual mines respectively for the
year 2006.

4.2.3 As far as M/s SCCL is concerned, cause-wise analysis in underground hand


section (conventional bord and pillar workings) shows that ground movement
was responsible for nearly 46% of total fatal accidents during the period
between 1997 & 2006 while fatal accidents on this count in mechanized
workings were merely 2.33% of total accidents, as revealed by the following
table.

No of fatal accidents
ground movement Total accidents (all causes)
Yea Acciden Fatalities Accidents Fatalities
r ts
HS MM HS MM HS M othe Tot HS M othe tota
M rs al M rs l
199 16 - 16 - 29 1 5 35 29 1 5 35
7
199 11 - 14 - 27 - 4 31 32 - 4 36
8
199 13 2 14 2 18 2 5 25 19 2 6 27
9
200 12 - 17 - 17 - 9 26 23 - 10 33
0
200 10 2 10 2 19 3 3 25 19 3 3 25
1
200 10 - 19 - 14 - - 14 23 - - 23
2
200 7 - 16 - 12 - 7 19 37 - 7 44
3
200 7 - 9 - 10 - 1 11 13 - 1 14
4
200 2 - 2 - 8 1 3 12 8 1 3 12
5
200 5 1 5 4 12 1 3 16 12 4 3 19
6
Tot 93 5 122 8 16 8 40 214 21 11 42 268
al 6 5
HS: Hand Section MM: Machine Mining

5.0 INTRODUCTION OF MECHANIZATION

5.1 Though face mechanization such as shuttle cars, loaders etc. was introduced
60 years ago in a few mines in the country followed by Longwall, Blasting
Gallery etc. in phases in the recent past, the unabated spate of accidents in
coal mines across the country prior to the year 2001 prompted Govt. of India
to urge coal companies to introduce face mechanization for coal extraction
including evacuation and strata management. Besides this, IX conference on
safety in mines held in the year 2000 also envisaged to provide arrangements
for transport of men in mines where long or arduous travel was involved.

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5.2 Safety policy adopted by some of the coal mining companies, include a
decision taken to minimize production from Hand Section mining where
workmen are crammed in a potentially dangerous active moving coal face,
and switch over to coal winning including evacuation by

- upgradation of existing technologies,


- introduction of intermediate technologies,
- deployment of Special methods like Blasting Gallery,
- introduction of Continuous Miner, and
- high wall/ punch mining.

6.0 FACE MECHANIZATION VS ACCIDENT REDUCTION – A CASE STUDY IN


THE UNDERGROUND MINES OF M/s SCCL.

6.1 The underground coal mines of M/s SCCL are generally arduous in nature,
exploiting steeply dipping and fairly thick seams at depths as much as about
300 m. The travel distance to the work places is invariably long. Owing to
these reasons, the accident scenario in these mines was very dismal at
national level, compelling the management to adopt mechanization on
pressures from the Govt. as a measure of mitigating accidents and sufferings
to the workpersons.

6.2 The various types of Mechanizations introduced at various stages in M/s SCCL
are detailed here under.

No. of
Sl. Type of Year(s) of units as
Remarks
No Mechanization introduction on May’
2007
1 SDLs/LHDs 1979 102 90% of the units
2 were introduced
LHDs 1981 37 from 2002/03
onwards
3 5 Longwall units
Longwall 1983 3
worked till 2005
4 5 BG units
Blasting Gallery 1989 4
worked till 2005
5 Roof bolters 2004 43 -
6 Continuous 2006 1
miner

It may not be out of place to mention that the sudden spurt in the face
mechanization levels was at the behest of this Directorate beginning in the
year 2003.

6.3MINE ACCIDENTS
Accidents on account of ground movement in underground mines of M/s
SCCL for 5 year period (1997 to 2001) prior to mechanization and subsequent to
intensive mechanization period of 5 years (2002-2006) are detailed hereunder.
Accidents prior to mechanization (1997 to 2001)

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Ground Movement Total
Sl Fatal Fatal
Year Fatalities
No Accidents Acciden Fatalities
HS MM HS MM ts
1 1997 16 - 16 - 35 35
2 1998 11 - 14 - 31 36
3 1999 13 2 14 2 25 27
4 2000 12 - 17 - 26 33
5 2001 10 2 10 2 25 25
Total = 62 4 71 4 142 156

Accidents subsequent to intensive mechanization (2002 to 2006)

Ground Movement Total


Sl Fatal Fatal
Year Fatalities
No Accidents Accident Fatalities
HS MM HS MM s
1 2002 10 - 19 - 14 23
2 2003 07 - 16 - 19 44
3 2004 07 - 09 - 11 14
4 2005 02 - 02 - 12 12
5 2006 05 1 05 4 16 19
Total = 31 1 51 4 72 112

6.3.1 From comparison of two tables, it may be noted that 142 fatal accidents (62
due to roof and side fall) occurred before mechanization period (1997 to
2001) while subsequent period of 5 years (2002 to 2006) accounted for only
72 (31 due to roof and side fall).

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6.3.2 This trend is indicative of the fact that introduction of face mechanization
from 2002-03 onwards has brought down fatal accidents by nearly 50%.

6.4 COAL PRODUCTION VIS-À-VIS MECHANIZATION


Though mining in M/s SCCL started with Hand Section, gradual shift over the
years to mechanization in phased manner has reduced accidents, met higher
demand of coal and resulted in coal conservation in mining thick coal seams
by blasting gallery methods in conjunction with remotely operated Load Haul
Dumpers (LHDs).

6.4.1 Technology wise coal production for the last 10 years in M/s SCCL is given
below.
(Production in lakh tonnes)

Sl. Underground Total


Year Opencast
NO
HS MM TOTAL
1 1997-98 103.05 33.16 136.21 153.20 289.41
2 1998-99 104.95 24.59 129.54 143.72 273.26
3 1999-00 104.43 23.48 127.91 167.65 295.56
4 2000-01 114.56 23.31 137.87 164.87 302.74
5 2001-02 112.93 24.54 137.47 170.64 308.11
6 2002-03 102.58 25.50 128.08 204.28 332.36
7 2003-04 100.90 32.24 133.14 205.40 338.54
8 2004-05 89.11 40.63 129.74 223.29 353.03
9 2005-06 70.86 56.25 127.11 234.27 361.38
10 2006-07 55.74 63.02 118.76 258.31 377.07

It may be seen that while the hand section production decreased by


46% (47.31 Lakh tonnes) between 1997-98 & 2006-07, machine mining
production increased by 90% (30 Lakh tonnes) over the same period.

6.5 From the above, the critical advantages of extensive face mechanization over
the conventional crowded manual face working are amply demonstrated.

7.0 OTHER ASPECTS OF INTRODUCTION OF FACE MECHANIZATION VIS-À-


VIS SAFETY IN M/s SCCL

7.1 Roof Bolting:

7.1.1 With the standardization of roof bolting activity in all underground mines, the
roof fall accidents reduced considerably. It is due to this inherent
potential of the roof bolting technology coupled with an all round advantage
over other conventional types of supports, the consumption of roof bolts
development/depillaring in M/s SCCL has increased from 19.0 lakh bolts in the
year 2003 to 22.15 lakh bolts in the year 2006.

7.2 Breaker Line Bolts: To control the goaf-overriding into the working
areas, the goaf edges in depillaring panels are strongly supported with
breaker line supports consisting of 3 rows of roof bolts to provide the
requisite resistance. These supports have helped considerably in preventing
roof fall accidents. The company has procured and commissioned 43 roof
bolters for the bolting activity and further 114 roof bolters are under
procurement process.
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7.3 Hydraulic open-circuit props/powered supports: For matching the
strata control needs of the Blasting Gallery (BG) and Longwall (LW)
technologies, the support of working faces was effected by Hydraulic open
circuit props/powered supports (chock shields), for providing a positive and
high support resistance.

8.0 IMPACT OF INTRODUCTION OF FACE MECHANIZATION VIS-À-VIS


SAFETY IN MINES

8.1 Multifarious activities: Multifarious activities at faces after introduction of face


mechanization are minimized as most of the operations are carried out with
the machines in a sequential manner.

8.2 Phasing out of manual loading in active working sites (faces): With a view to
reducing exposure of work persons to potentially dangerous areas in mines,
most companies have embarked upon phasing out manual loading in active
working areas. The figures for M/s SCCL in this regard reflect a steep fall by
about 38 % from a figure of 29140 in the year 2003-04 to 17766 in the year
2006-07, and also making 17 underground mines free of manual working
(hand section).

8.3 The experienced human resource available after such phasing out as above,
were gainfully redeployed in machine mining related jobs as operators,
helpers etc, after giving appropriate change of job training, thus augmenting
the skilled pool of the companies.

8.4 The most desired impact that of reduced mine accidents can be a reality as seen
from the experience of M/s SCCL wherein, a 50 % reduction was established
in the fatalities post introduction of face mechanization.

9.0 ADDITIONAL ISSUES ON INTRODUCTION OF FACE MECHANIZATION:

9.1 Considering increased use of electricity, power gears, hydraulic etc., related
safety precautions are required to be observed including ‘hands on’ training
by original equipment manufacturers (OEM).

9.2 For ensuring safety of work persons, suitable code of practices shall have to
be formulated during transport and operation of machines, material handling
during repairs, etc., to avoid accidents due to “extremity caught”.

9.3 Considering large dimensions of machinery, adequate size of galleries shall


be planned for facilitating transport of machinery in new mines. While in
existing mines, where mechanization is proposed, galleries have to be
enlarged to facilitate transport and installation of machinery.

9.4 Recognizing workmen comfort, machines shall have to be designed


ergonomically to avoid Musco-skeletal Diseases.

9.5 Dust, noise/vibrations & heat control should be inbuilt in the design of
machinery. If required, interlocking arrangements shall have to be provided.

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9.6 Personnel protective equipment (PPE) commensurate with technology should
be provided to face workers.

9.7 Availability of spare parts in designated places in machine mining district may
go a long way in maintaining the safety features of machinery.

9.8 Communication from out bye of face to other parts of the mine and to surface
is very vital for timely decisions for operation, maintenance and repairs of
machine.

10.0 MECHANIZATION IN OUT BYE AREAS:

10.1 To attain full utilization of the machine mining technology, M/s SCCL has
taken steps to provide a matching mechanization of the outbye systems as
mentioned hereunder -

• 33 nos. of man riding systems are in operation and another 5 are


under installation for easy and comfortable access from and to the working areas
from surface.

• Coal transport by belt conveyors and provision of strata bunkers


instead of the conventional track haulage systems.

• Tele-monitoring of mine gases in faces and other parts of the mine


including the main return airways in mechanized depillaring panels.

11.0 CONCLUSION:

11.1 With the introduction of appropriate face mechanization, accidents in mines


have shown a positive downward trend due to reduced exposure/
concentration of workmen at active coal faces. The gravity of the problem of
continuing with manual work at bulk production fronts would be too intense
for the mining operators and therefore, calls for an immediate switch in the
production policy towards face mechanization and reducing conventional
crowded work-force at the production fronts. This paradigm shift appears to
be inevitable, especially in the wake of having to mine from deep to very
deep horizons commensurate with fast changing ergonomical challenges in
the future ahead.

12.0 ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATIONS:

12.1 Keeping in view the objective of phasing out manual loading, all coal
companies should identify appropriate technology suitable for the
prevailing geomining conditions and introduce the same in phased

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manner to phase out manual loading operations completely within a
period of next five years.
12.2 While formulating the strategies for face mechanisation in
underground workings, this is to be ensured that back up facilities like
coal evacuation, support system, ventilation arrangements etc. are
compatible with face mechanisation.
12.3 The scheme of face mechanisation should be based on proper
scientific investigation. The scheme should also include arrangements
for monitoring strata behaviour and environmental conditions.
12.4 Possibility of deployment of multi-skilled miners in the face shall be
explored to reduce the exposure at hazardous area.
12.5 Suitable training has to be imparted to all concern persons.
12.6 While planning for face mechanisation due considerations should be
given for long term sustainability of the technology.

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