Underground Strata Support: The Safe Way Forward

Handheld Roof Bolter Used For Strata SupportUnderground strata support is every miner's primary concern when it comes to coal mining. Strata basically is a collective term for what a layman could call the underground conditions, which make up the miner's immediate environment. This also includes the mine roof and the tunnel passageway among other things. Poor strata control can result in ground falling, cave-ins, slow development or inefficient extraction rates, all of which have costly and sometimes deadly results. Over the ages, mining companies and bureaus realized the need for coming up with a systematic plan to counter the hassle of poor strata.

If you hang around a bunch of miners for some time, chances are you will hear SMP being mentioned, perhaps a number of times. SMP refers to Strata Management Plan. This is a documented process entailing the procedures required for safe excavation of strata. It also includes other control-related methods such as monitoring the effects of the excavation and defining personnel responsibilities and functions in strata management.

The purpose of a typical strata management plan would be threefold. That is:
• An approach is decided upon keeping in mind the risks involved
• Ensuring that the risk-based controls are implemented and monitored for effectiveness
• A regular review of the strata management plan, with special focus on underground strata support.

A strata management plan that fulfils these objectives is a successful one. Design of the underground strata support is never general, or all-purpose. It has to be modified in accordance with the prevailing strata conditions. Reviewing and monitoring of pillar constraints or mapping of tunnel roadways are regular elements of a sound strata management plan.

This plan is usually supervised by the mine or tunnel manager. He keeps checks on the situation, keeping himself updated with any new development and deciding the best way forward to deal with it.

However, underground strata support is never just a stage in the mining process. It needs to be practiced throughout the operation. Right from ascertaining the specific characteristics of the mine's strata, including risk assessment, to overall layout and design of the mines and operational reviewing throughout, strata control never sleeps, as the grim, bearded mine manager might tell you.

Estimation of geological conditions is obviously a huge factor in determining what the strata management plan will be like. Venturing inside the mine and designing the roof support and other duties without proper research into terrain conditions would be like heading into a moor filled with quagmires in the dead of the night-without a flashlight. Therefore most mining companies insist upon proper geological experts who know their stuff and are able to come up with comprehensive reports on what to expect down there.

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