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The use of waste material in underground coal mines

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2010, Vol. 328, No. 1, pp. 409-419

Spearing, A.J.S.; Brown, R.; Treinen, M.; Theisinger, M.


The mining and use of coal creates a significant amount of waste material that needs to be safely disposed of. It is likely that in the medium term, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. will categorize all such products as a new category – special waste. This would make the materials subject to many of the requirements for handling toxic waste, which will complicate the disposal of such products and significantly increase the disposal costs. Underground disposal would, therefore, seem to be the obvious solution, especially if the placed material can have low or no permeability, so that water table pollution does not present a serious long-term issue after placement. Significant additional advantages could be derived from this backfilling, including the reduction or elimination of surface subsidence, increased extraction, reduced surface waste disposal footprint and the elimination of explosion-proof seals in worked out areas. The research using a specific coal waste product as a typical example proved that the method of placing the backfill at a high density with low permeability is technically viable, but it must be made more cost effective and the other potential benefits quantified and costed in order to present a true comparison.