General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

What keeps coal mines from being automated?

Asked by LostInParadise (28467points) May 21st, 2010

I am sure that I am missing something obvious. Is there any skill required for coal mining? Is it done much differently than it was done 100 years ago?

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6 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

The actual mining is nearly completely automated, but the machines need constant human attention.

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CyanoticWasp's avatar

Aside from the machines, coal seams vary widely in quality, depth (moving upwards and down and laterally) and size (thick seams becoming thin, and vice versa). In order to prevent the machines from digging “rock and dirt” and spending extra time and money in that way degrading the product that they’re trying to extract and sell humans are needed to direct the machines: “dig this way, not that”.

In underground mines, too, the quality of the entire strata has to be watched to determine when and where to erect shoring, pump out accumulations of water, add lighting and tracks for the ore vehicles (and people movers) ... or move all of that from an abandoned shaft to a new one.

YARNLADY's avatar

The easiest way to mine is called strip mining. Instead of digging tunnels that follow the ore, they just take everything out. It works well for ore near the surface, but not underground.

The main reason for using human labor is cost. It is simply cheaper to have men do much of the work than to build machines.

Here is an excellent article from the International Mining journal

LostInParadise's avatar

@YARNLADY , According to the article, there is at least the possibility of greater automation. I can see how traveling in a cab would increase safety, but I am not sure if this addresses the problems of flooding and explosions.

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