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What Technology Is Involved in Gathering or Using Coal?

21 October 2021

What Technology Is Involved in Gathering or Using Coal?

How is technology used in Coal Mining?

  • Technology is vital to coal mining safety and productivity
  • Automation, monitoring and remote devices are all used in coal mining
  • This helps improve safety outcomes.

Technology is critical to the gathering and use of coal. While coal-mining has been underway for centruries as a secure and reliable heating and energy source, in recent decades technological advancements have changed the industry significantly.

Safety, production and operational challenges have all been overcome thanks to new technology in coal mining. 

So what technology is involved in the gathering or use of coal? In contemporary mining, companies use a range of initiatives from automation to monitoring and safety technologies in order to mine the resources sustainably and safely.

One of the key uses of technology in coal mining is to drive safety outcomes.

Big data and analytics are changing mining operations to improve efficiency and productivity. The insights can inform gas and ventilation levels in underground mining, helping to reduce the risk profile for workers.

The automation of heavy machinery, such as trains and trucks, is also playing a part to remove hazards, while the use of drones and sensors in slope monitoring is also underway.

Technology has become a critical part of modern mining operations. Longwall automation in underground mining has become commonplace. This uses specialised remote technology to guide and monitor excavation equipment in real time.

Growing Trends in Coal Mining 

  • AI, big data and robotics are growing trends in coal mining
  • Miners increasingly use digital skills
  • Sustainability is also a focus of coal mining technology.

Growing trends in coal mining include digitisation, AI and big data, and the growing use of automation and robotics. These broader trends are shaping the industry, not only in its operations but also in the workforce needed.

Advisory firm EY’s The Future of Work report said technologies involved in the gathering or use of coal would redesign occupations and improve work health and safety by removing employees from hazardous situations.

With an increased view to carbon emissions, there is also research underway to support the future coal capture and storage industry. This is also known as “clean coal”. 

Technological Advancements in Mining Industry

  • Technology has been important to increasing safety
  • Innovation has helped Australian industry retain its global competitiveness
  • Advances have extended mine lives, yields and productivity.

Coal mining has been conducted for thousands of years. At this time, people would collect coal from the ground simply by digging shallow pits.

Technology involved in gathering and using coal advanced with deeper and wider coal seams in England throughout the 1700s. This increased the accessibility and affordability of coal, which in turn catalysed its use in steam engines. This fired up the Industrial Revolution. 

In the modern era, the technological advancements are significant. Innovation has been critical to reducing production costs, maintaining coal mining as a globally competitive industry in Australia and continuing to increase safety. What technology is involved in the gathering or use of coal has contributed to its transformation from a labour-intensive high-risk industry to a high-capital, high value sector.

According to a Deloitte analysis, Mining and METS: engines of economic growth and prosperity for Australians, technology-driven advances in mining have reduced operating costs and improved productivity, mine life and yields, as well as the critical improvements in safety measures. Collaboration between mining companies has also added to the widespread industry use of technology.

How New Technology is Changing the Australian Mining Industry

Australia is a recognised global leader in the Mining, Equipment and Technology Services (METS) space. Here are some modern mining tools and technologies that have advanced Australian coal mining. 

Automated longwall mining 

The CSIRO’s longwall automation innovation is a technology involved in gathering or using coal that has spread in use across the world. The automated operations system improves safety and productivity in underground mines.

Its remote system continuously steers the longwall mining equipment as it moves, an advance on the previous machinery that had to be stopped to reposition.

The longwall method is used in about 90 per cent of the nation’s underground coal mines, the CSIRO says, so the advance prompted important positive social and economic impacts.

Managing coal fire risk

The CSIRO has also developed technologies to reduce the risk of spontaneous coal fires in mines through gas-level monitoring.

This new technology in coal mining involves computational fluid dynamics studies and fluid research to develop new strategies for preventing and controlling underground explosions and fires in coal mines.

Air and gas flows have been mapped and the proactive strategies tested in real-life conditions with positive results. 

Using drones for monitoring

Drone use in mines started in the mid-2010s in Australia to monitor tailings and inspect mines. The unmanned aircraft can fly over sites and collect data and images of the sites, operating safely under remote control.

This reduces risks to surveyors and other mine workers. 

The Impact of New Technology in Coal Mining for Miners

  • New technologies are changing the coal mining workforce
  • Work can be performed remotely, taking people away from risk
  • The use of digital tools and big data is expected to grow. 

The latest technology in the mining industry is changing the nature of work, and the workers who will thrive in the sector.

With the growing use of digital tools and the technological advancements in the mining industry, current and future workers are safer and have more digital skills than in the past.

The EY report said this would continue amid the global digital transformation.

“Cloud computing, information sharing and big data continue to change the nature of work and enable integrated operating centres so more work can be performed remotely and more flexibly,” the report said.

“This trend will accelerate within the sector and increasingly take employees away from hazardous on-site events to an improved work health and safety rating and enhanced workplace conditions.”

Skills to support these changes will be needed across the industry, opening it up to a broader range of interests.

Learn More About Modern Mining Tools with Bravus

This overview of what technologies are involved in gathering or using coal is one of the general coal-mining resources created by mining company Bravus. We are using a range f contemporary coal-mining technologies in the construction and operations of the central Queensland Carmichael Coal Mine.

Coal mining is an essential part of Australia’s economy and energy mix. The use of coal has a long history in Australia, even dating back to our First Nations peoples. In Australia, coal is mined in a highly regulated, sophisticated and sustainable way that protects the biodiversity around the mine site.

Now, coal mining – along with mining more generally – contributes significantly to our national and local economies. It provides well-paid jobs, taxes to government, and local services.

The Carmichael Project is on track to export its first coal by the end of 2021.