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Summary of Geologist’s Role in Coal Mining : From Field

Maping until Establishment of Geological Model for


Mining Exploitation

Coal mining is an evergrowth industry that provide profound energy source to this world.
Throughout history, coal has been utilized as an energy resource, primarily burned for the
production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes, such as refining
metals. The Energy Information Administration estimates coal reserves at 948×109 short tons (860
Gt).One estimate for resources is 18 000 Gt. Coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce
electricity and heat through combustion. World coal consumption was about 7.25 billion tonnes in
2011 (7.99 billion short tons) and is expected to increase 48% to 9.05 billion tonnes (9.98 billion
short tons) by 2030. China produced 3.47 billion tonnes (3.83 billion short tons) in 2011. India
produced about 578 million tonnes (637.1 million short tons) in 2011. 68.7% of China’s electricity
comes from coal. The USA consumed about 13% of the world total in 2010, i.e. 951 million tonnes
(1.05 billion short tons), using 93% of it for generation of electricity. 46% of total power generated in
the USA was done using coal.

Geologist is the person in charge for the first commencement of exploration until the
establishment of geological model for exploitation. This geological model will become the sole
consideration for the further mining operation. Many other department will refer to geological
model for the purpose of their engineering work. Initial creation of pit design is without a doubt
will be affected by the geological model which yield certain reserve and striping ratio of
particular area. Mine plan engineer will make the mining sequence based on the condition of
the pit, that will be related with how the coal seam propagate. Drill and blasting engineer surely
depend on the geological model to determines drill hole depth. Thus simply put geological
model is in the heart of minig exploitation activity. Therefore its construction will be regarded
as a very important process which involve many step

The very first step in exploration is the commencement of field working through detailed
geological maping and coal seam maping. Even though in some country almost every region
has already possessed official geoloy map published by its geological and survey department,
a thorough field observation and maping is still important. The published regional geology map
is indeed become the outline and helping tool to determines target area for further detail
examination, supported by the intrepertation of topographic or geomorphological map.
Regional appraisal will be conducted, to determine which area that have potentiality to be
explored. After the area has been picked, all logistic requirement regarding to field work will
be prepared. Reconnaissance study will be first commenced to unravel the basic condition and
information of the research area. After that surface investigation will be started by geologist
along with surveyor. For a really remote area where topographic map hasn’t been recorded well
enough, surveyor will accompany geologist to construct the initial topographic map. Tools
which is fundamental for surveyor to make such map is Total Station Teodolite. In almost the
same time geologist could started geological maping which purposed to recognized the litology
of the exploration area, the stratigraphy and boundary between assigned stratigraphic unit,
patern and control of geological structure, the occurrence of coal seam, etc.
Picture 1.1 Field maping activity and the resulted geological map.

After the geological map has been established geologist will arrange the next step in mining
exploration, the subsurface investigation. Subsurface investigation is important in collecting
the raw data for exploration, and it is supported by a profound understanding on the geological
condition of the research area. Determining the location of drilling rig will be influenced by
the coal seam alignment(strike & dip), geological structural condition, natural topography, etc.
Geologist will formulate the best possible drilling hole location so it can encompassed almost
all research area, which has consider the effectiviy, economic efficiency, time schedule, etc.
For initial subsurface investigation, the distance between drillhole is ussualy depend on the
initial purpose and economic consideration. It is ussualy still have large margin of distance
from one drillhole to another.
Picture 1.2 Survey crew conducting topographic maping using Total station theodolite.

In the early part of subsurface exploration, drilling is conducted by full coring with a large
margin of distance of drillholes along with geophysical logging. Method for drilling is much
depend on wireline loging with NQ(drillhole diameter more than 75,7 mm) to ease the wireline
loging process. This machine is designed to conduct continuous drilling without even the needs
to substract the bor rod in each rod extention, whereas the core is being dragged up using hand
rod. The usual type of the drilling machine is Longyear LY-39 or LY-44 for drilling on medium
depth. Kinds of loging tool which been utilized in coal subsurface investigation are GR log,
Resistivity, Density, Caliper, etc. For the second part of drilling exploration, the distance
between one drillhole to another is receded, which is 300-400 m for stable area, and 250m grid
for unstable area or metalugical coal area. In the open pit mine, several drilling process is being
conducted with non-core method, such as reverse circulation method or rotary rig. In this case,
geophysical loging is applied to retrieved the information about the coal seam elevation,
thickness, etc. For the last part of the drilling activity is the hidrological and geotechnical
drilling which is conducted to get the sample for hydrology and geotechnical analysis.
Picture 1.3 Drilling machine for exploration.

Picture 1.3 Coring activity, this coring later will be analysed by geologist and the
stratigraphic column will be made.

The result of the drilling explration activity are the lithology column, survey data, and quality
data. All these datas will be elaborated to particular format such as the CSV and PRN Format.
The lithological and survey datas will be input first in the mining software to be correlated, to
determines which seam regarded as parent seam, which one who split, etc. After the correlation
has been fixed, the data will be processed using geological model software. There some
software which ussualy been used to make the geological model, such as Minescape
Stratmodel, Minex, Surpac block model, etc. in this post writer will discus minescape
stratmodel as the software to elaborate the geological model. The data that will be input, just
like the aforementioned section, are lithology data, survey data, and quality data. Geologist will
decided the trend for the model, the nature of the coal seam(wheter it is continous or pinch
out), the limit and nature of the weathering surface, intrapolator that will be used, etc. all this
data is being input and formulated in Schema, the brain of the geological model in Minescape
Stratmodel. Trial and error is without a doubt a step to get through in this phase. For the final
part fault data could also be input in schema. The data for fault require location of fault plane,
orientation of fault plane, and throw data. Survey data could also be added to the schema, if in
case there is some good exposure data that could help to validate the model. After the model
has been created and validated, it can be used for resource calculation, reserve calculation, pit
design, etc.

Picture 1.5 drillhole data that has been input in Stratmodel.