...the mining environment (ventilation, gas and dust) will also be experienced. Modelling of gas and dust problems and the formulation of mitigation strategies have been performed for numerous examples of similar face ventilation, dust and goaf gas issues on current conventional faces in Australia with successful results. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques are being employed to the LTCC case as a method of identifying problems and designing control strategies in the current ACARP research project.
Equipment design and performance
During the past 20 years Chinese equipment manufacturers have developed several generations of longwall supports as more was learnt about the caving process and the role played by the LTCC supports. Modelling of equipment performance in various ground conditions will be important to determine the optimal support design for safe and efficient production.
Automation of face functions will be an essential step in the application of LTCC into Australian mines for increased safety and productivity. Due to the subtleties of the top coal fracturing and caving process, poor face alignment can seriously impact on production from top coal caving as can a loss of the correct cutting horizon. Control of these parameters through automation will ensure greater continuity of production.
The caving operation as it is now requires an operator to spend time at each support during caving operations listening and looking for changes in the caving material (ie coal to rock) as it makes its way onto the rear AFC to control dilution. Automation of the caving cycle will require the replacement of subtle human observations by developing new sensors to detect changes in the caving process to produce a productive automated caving control system.
In order to introduce LTCC successfully into the Australian mining industry several challenges exist in different areas from the understanding and application of fundamental science through to solving everyday engineering issues. The challenge areas of caving assessment, mine environment and equipment design outlined in this paper along with the suggested methods of meeting these challenges must be addressed to enable the process to move forward.
*The authors wish to thank the Yankuang Coal Group and the University of New South Wales for their generosity in providing information and participation during the course of the studies on LTCC.