Softwall wins patent for SACUM

A technology that combines the principles of longwall and hydraulic mining has just won a US patent.

Staff Reporter

The US patent office has awarded a patent to Softwall Equipment Corporation of Utah for its Surface-Assisted Continuous Underground Mine conveyor (SACUM) technology.

The softwall mining method provides a means of extracting coal or minerals from deposits with soft, shallow ground conditions. The method is also applicable to longwall mining from highwall access. The system accommodates the addition of conveyor structure and mine systems from the surface directly to the mining face for advance and retreat mining using continuous miners and/or longwalling. Randall Peterson, president of Softwall Equipment Corporation, says advantages include eliminating place changing.

This technology is a system providing utilities and support infrastructure on a continuous basis from the surface to the cutting face of an underground operation. It consists of a belt structure on a stationary rail, which is mounted to the roof of the mine. SACUM can move forward or retreat as the mining operation advances or retreats. The structure also incorporates water supply, discharge lines, power, communication cables, hydraulics to the cutting face and return coal haulage.

Anticipated advantages of the system include but are not limited to: safer work and floor conditions, faster set up and less down time, less equipment required to run the mine, faster movement of equipment along the cutting face. Once the mine is in operation a reduction of up to 50% in labour can be realised.

Randall Peterson, president of Softwall Equipment Corporation, was at MINExpo in October.

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