Meet the coal mining machine that never sleeps
Deep below the earth’s surface, a curious, flat, snake-like machine is busy slicing its way through low and narrow coal seams.
It’s longer than a bus, barely the height of a tennis racket, and rarely needs to stop as it leaves behind vast underground caverns supported by pillars of coal and rock.
Known as the GE Fairchild F330, it’s one of just a few continuous mining machines that can selectively target these narrow seams to extract high quality coal between soft, sedimentary rock.
With each swing of its unique double helix shearers coal is extracted from the mine wall and automatically channelled onto a conveyor belt that carries it directly to the surface.
Not only does this continuous system make mining more productive, the shearers are perfectly designed to minimise coal dust to create a cleaner, safer environment for miners.
That’s achieved in part by the use of wet head shearers that leave room for air to sweep across the coalface, diluting dust and methane.
The highly targeted movement of these shearers extracts coal that’s largely uncontaminated by other types of rock, reducing production time and costs.
Finally, when the coal seam has been fully extracted, the F330 conducts a final pass through the mine and drills through the pillars to extract recoverable material, allowing the roof to collapse as it leaves each room.
“There are coal seams so low and narrow that it would be impossible to get to them without an F330,” said Craig Setter, General Manager, at GE Mining Equipment.
“Even under the harshest conditions the F330 is a very productive, very safe approach to mining in places most equipment simply can’t access."
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