COAL. In its most general sense the term "coal" includes all varieties of carbonaceous minerals used as fuel, but it is now usual in England to restrict it to the particular varieties of such minerals occurring in the older Carboniferous formations. On the continent of Europe it is customary to consider coal as divisible into two great classes, depending upon differences of colour, namely, brown coal, corresponding to the term "lignite" used in England and France, and black or stone coal, which is equivalent to coal as understood in England. Stone coal is also a local English term, but with a signification restricted to the substance known by mineralogists as anthracite. In old English writings the terms pit-coal and sea-coal are commonly used. These have reference to the mode in which the mineral is obtained, and the manner in which it is transported to market.
The root kol is common to all the Teutonic nations, while in French and other Romance languages derivatives of the Latin carbo are used, e.g. charbon de terre. In France and Belgium, however, a peculiar word, houille, is generally used to signify mineral coal. This word is supposed to be derived from the Walloon hoie, corresponding to the medieval Latin hullae. Littré suggests that it may be related to the Gothic haurja, coal. Anthracite is from the Greek , and the term lithanthrax, stone coal, still survives, with the same meaning, in the Italian litantrace.
It must be borne in mind that the signification now attached to the word coal is different from that which formerly obtained when wood was the only fuel in general use. Coal then meant the carbonaceous residue obtained in the destructive distillation of wood, or what is known as charcoal, and the name collier was applied indifferently to both coal-miners and charcoal-burners.
The spelling "cole" was generally used up to the middle of the 17th century, when it was gradually superseded by the modern form, "coal." The plural, coals, seems to have been used from a very early period to signify the broken fragments of the mineral as prepared for use.
Coal is an amorphous substance of variable composition, and therefore cannot be as strictly defined as a crystallized or definite mineral can. It varies in colour from a light brown in the newest lignites to a pure black, often with a bluish or yellowish tint in the more compact anthracite of the older formations. It is opaque, except in exceedingly thin slices, such as made for microscopic investigation, which are imperfectly transparent, and of a dark brown colour by transmitted light. The streak is black in anthracite, but more or less brown in the softer varieties. The maximum hardness is from 2.5 to 3 in anthracite and hard bituminous coals, but considerably less in lignites, which are nearly as soft as rotten wood. A greater hardness is due to the presence of earthy impurities. The densest anthracite is often of a semi-metallic lustre, resembling somewhat that of graphite. Bright, glance or pitch coal is another brilliant variety, brittle, and breaking into regular fragments of a black colour and pitchy lustre. Lignite and cannel are usually dull and earthy, and of an irregular fracture, the latter being much tougher than the black coal. Some lignites are, however, quite as brilliant as anthracite; cannel and jet may be turned in the lathe, and are susceptible of taking a brilliant polish. The specific gravity is highest in anthracite and lowest in lignite, bituminous coals giving intermediate values (see Table I.). As a rule, the density increases with the amount of carbon, but in some instances a very high specific gravity is due to intermixed earthy matters, which are always denser than even the densest form of coal substance.
Coal is never definitely crystalline, the nearest approach to such a structure being a compound fibrous grouping resembling that of gypsum or arragonite, which occurs in some of the steam coals of South Wales, and is locally known as "cone in cone," but no definite form or arrangement can be made out of the fibres. Usually it occurs in compact beds of alternating bright and dark bands in which impressions of leaves, woody fibre and other vegetable remains are commonly found. There is generally a tendency in coals towards cleaving into cubical or prismatic blocks, but sometimes the cohesion between the particles is so feeble that the mass breaks up into dust when struck. These peculiarities of structure may vary very considerably within small areas; and the position of the divisional planes or cleats with reference to the mass, and the proportion of small coal or slack to the larger fragments when the coal is broken up by cutting-tools, are points of great importance in the working of coal on a large scale.
The divisional planes often contain small films of other minerals, the commonest being calcite, gypsum and iron pyrites, but in some cases zeolitic minerals and galena have been observed. Salt, in the form of brine, is sometimes present in coal. Hydrocarbons, such as petroleum, bitumen, paraffin, etc., are also found occasionally in coal, but more generally in the associated sandstones and limestones of the Carboniferous formation. Gases, consisting principally of light carburetted hydrogen or marsh gas, are often present in considerable quantity in coal, in a dissolved or occluded state, and the evolution of these upon exposure to the air, especially when a sudden diminution of atmospheric pressure takes place, constitutes one of the most formidable dangers that the coal miner has to encounter.
The classification of the different kinds of coal may be considered from various points of view, such as their chemical composition, their behaviour when subjected to heat or when burnt, and their geological position and origin. They all contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, forming the carbonaceous or combustible portion, and some quantity of mineral matter, which remains after combustion as a residue or "ash." As the amount of ash varies very considerably in different coals, and stands in no relation to the proportion of the other constituents, it is necessary in forming a chemical classification to compute the results of analysis after deduction of the ash and hygroscopic water. Examples of analyses treated in this manner are furnished in the last column of Table I., from which it will be seen that the nearest approach to pure carbon is furnished by anthracite, which contains above 90%. This class of coal burns with a very small amount of flame, producing intense local heat and no smoke. It is especially used for drying hops and malt, and in blast furnaces where a high temperature is required, but it is not suited for reverberatory furnaces.
The most important class of coals is that generally known as bituminous, from their property of softening or undergoing an apparent fusion when heated to a temperature far below that at which actual combustion takes place. This term is founded on a misapprehension of the nature of the occurrence, since, although the softening takes place at a low temperature, still it marks the point at which destructive distillation commences, and hydrocarbons both of a solid and gaseous character are formed. That nothing analogous to bitumen exists in coals is proved by the fact that the ordinary solvents for bituminous substances, such as bisulphide of carbon and benzol, have no effect upon them, as would be the case if they contained bitumen soluble in these re-agents. The term is, however, a convenient one, and one whose use is almost a necessity, from its having an almost universal currency among coal miners. The proportion of carbon in bituminous coals may vary from 80 to 90% - the amount being highest as they approach the character of anthracite, and least in those which are nearest to lignites. The amount of hydrogen is from 4 to 6%, while the oxygen may vary within much wider limits, or from about 3 to 14%. These variations in composition are attended with corresponding differences in qualities, which are distinguished by special names. Thus the semi-anthracitic coals of South Wales are known as "dry" or "steam coals," being especially valuable for use in marine steam-boilers, as they burn more readily than anthracite and with a larger amount of flame, while giving out a great amount of heat, and practically without producing smoke. Coals richer in hydrogen, on the other hand, are more useful for burning in open fires - smiths' forges and furnaces - where a long flame is required.
The excess of hydrogen in a coal, above the amount necessary to combine with its oxygen to form water, is known as "disposable" hydrogen, and is a measure of the fitness of the coal for use in gas-making. This excess is greatest in what is known as cannel coal, the Lancashire kennel or candle coal, so named from the bright light it gives out when burning. This, although of very small value as fuel, commands a specially high price for gas-making. Cannel is more compact and duller than ordinary coal, and can be wrought in the lathe and polished.
Table I. - Elementary Composition of Coal (the figures denote the amounts per cent).
exclusive of Water,
Sulphur and Ash.
Gravity. Carbon. Hydrogen. Oxygen. Nitrogen. Sulphur. Ash. Water. Carbon. Hydrogen. O. and N.
1. South Wales 1.392 90.39 3.28 2.98 0.83 0.91 1.61 2.00 93.54 3.39 3.82
2. Pennsylvania 1.462 90.45 2.43 2.45 .. .. 4.67 .. 94.89 2.54 2.57
3. Peru .. 82.70 1.41 0.85 10.35 3.75 0.94 97.34 1.66 1.00
Bituminous Steam and
4. Risca, South Wales .. 75.49 4.73 6.78 1.21 10.67 1.12 86.78 5.43 7.79
5. Aberdare, South Wales .. 86.80 4.25 3.06 0.83 4.40 0.66 92.24 4.51 3.25
6. Hartley, Northumberl'd .. 78.65 4.65 13.36 0.55 2.49 .. 80.67 4.76 14.5
7. Dudley, Staffordshire 1.278 78.57 5.29 12.88 1.84 0.39 1.03 1.13 79.70 5.37 14.9
8. Stranitzen, Styria .. 79.90 4.85 12.75 0.64 0.20 1.66 .. 81.45 4.92 13.63
Cannel or Gas Coal.
9. Wigan, Lancashire 1.276 80.07 5.53 8.08 2.12 1.50 2.70 0.91 85.48 5.90 8.62
10. Boghead, Scotland .. 63.10 8.91 7.25 0.96 19.78 .. 79.61 11.24 9.15
11. (Albertite) Nova Scotia .. 82.67 9.14 8.19 .. .. .. 82.67 9.14 8.19
12. (Tasmanite) Tasmania 1.18 79.34 10.41 4.93 5.32 .. .. 83.80 10.99 5.21
Lignite and Brown Coal.
13. Cologne 1.100 63.29 4.98 26.24 .. 8.49 .. 66.97 5.27 27.76
14. Bovey Tracy, Devonshire .. 66.31 5.63 22.86 0.57 2.36 2.36 .. 69.53 5.90 24.57
15. Trifail, Styria .. 50.72 5.34 33.18 2.80 0.90 7.86 .. 55.11 5.80 39.09
These properties are most highly developed in the substance known as jet, which is a variety of cannel found in the lower oolitic strata of Yorkshire, and is almost entirely used for ornamental purposes, the whole quantity produced near Whitby, together with a further supply from Spain, being manufactured into articles of jewellery at that town.
When coal is heated to redness out of contact with the air, the more volatile constituents, water, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen are in great part expelled, a portion of the carbon being also volatilized in the form of hydrocarbons and carbonic oxide, - the greater part, however, remaining behind, together with all the mineral matter or ash, in the form of coke, or, as it is also called, "fixed carbon." The proportion of this residue is greatest in the more anthracitic or drier coals, but a more valuable product is yielded by those richer in hydrogen. Very important distinctions - those of caking or non-caking - are founded on the behaviour of coals when subjected to the process of coking. The former class undergo an incipient fusion or softening when heated, so that the fragments coalesce and yield a compact coke, while the latter (also called free-burning) preserve their form, producing a coke which is only serviceable when made from large pieces of coal, the smaller pieces being incoherent and of no value. The caking property is best developed in coals low in oxygen with 25 to 30% of volatile matters. As a matter of experience, it is found that caking coals lose that property when exposed to the action of the air for a lengthened period, or by heating to about 300° C., and that the dust or slack of non-caking coal may, in some instances, be converted into a coherent coke by exposing it suddenly to a very high temperature, or compressing it strongly before charging it into the oven.
Lignite or brown coal includes all varieties which are intermediate in properties between wood and coals of the older formations. A coal of this kind is generally to be distinguished by its brown colour, either in mass or in the blacker varieties in the streak. The proportion of carbon is comparatively low, usually not exceeding 70%, while the oxygen and hygroscopic water are much higher than in true coals. The property of caking or yielding a coherent coke is usually absent, and the ash is often very high. The specific gravity is low when not brought up by an excessive amount of earthy matter. Sometimes it is almost pasty, and crumbles to powder when dried, so as to be susceptible of use as a pigment, forming the colour known as Cologne earth, which resembles umber or sepia. In Nassau and Bavaria woody structure is very common, and it is from this circumstance that the term lignite is derived. The best varieties are black and pitchy in lustre, or even bright and scarcely to be distinguished from true coals. These kinds are most common in Eastern Europe. Lignites, as a rule, are generally found in strata of a newer geological age, but there are many instances of perfect coals being found in such strata.
By the term "ash" is understood the mineral matter remaining unconsumed after the complete combustion of the carbonaceous portion of a coal. According to Couriot (Annales de la société géologique de Belgique, vol. xxiii. p. 105) the stratified character of the ash may be rendered apparent in an X-ray photograph of a piece of coal about an inch thick, when it appears in thin parallel bands, the combustible portion remaining transparent. It may also be rendered visible if a smooth block of free-burning coal is allowed to burn away quickly in an open fire, when the ash remains in thin grey or yellow bands on the surface of the block. The composition of the ashes of different coals is subject to considerable variation, as will be seen by Table II.
Sulphur in coal
The composition of the ash of true coal approximates to that of a fire-clay, allowance being made for lime, which may be present either as carbonate or sulphate, and for sulphuric acid. Sulphur is derived mainly from iron pyrites, which yields sulphates by combustion. An indication of the character of the ash of a coal is afforded by its colour, white ash coals being generally freer from sulphur than those containing iron pyrites, which yield a red ash. There are, however, several striking exceptions, as for instance in the anthracite from Peru, given in Table I., which contains more than 10% of sulphur, and yields but a very small percentage of a white ash. In this coal, as well as in the lignite of Tasmania, known as white coal or Tasmanite, the sulphur occurs in organic combination, but is so firmly held that it can only be very partially expelled, even by exposure to a very high and continued heating out of contact with the air. An anthracite occurring in connexion with the old volcanic rocks of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, which contains a large amount of sulphur in proportion to the ash, has been found to behave in a similar manner. Under ordinary conditions, from 1/8 to 1/4 of the whole amount of sulphur in a coal is volatilized during combustion, the remaining 3/4 to 7/8 being found in the ash.
Table II. - Composition of the Ashes of Coals.
Silica. Alumina. Ferric
Oxide. Lime. Magnesia. Potash. Sulphuric
Dowlais, South Wales 39.64 39.20 11.84 1.81 2.58 .. .. 3.01 98.08
Ebbw Vale, South Wales 53.00 35.01 .. 3.94 2.20 .. 4.89 0.88 99.92
Königsgrube, Silesia 55.41 18.95 16.06 3.21 1.87 2.05 1.73 0.36 99.64
Ohio 44.60 41.10 7.40 3.61 1.28 1.82 0.59 0.29 100.69
Helmstadt, Saxony 17.27 11.57 5.57 23.67 2.58 2.64 33.83 .. 97.13
Edeléney, Hungary 36.01 23.07 5.05 15.62 3.64 2.38 12.35 .. 98.12
Water in coal
The amount of water present in freshly raised coals varies very considerably. It is generally largest in lignites, which may sometimes contain 30% or even more, while in the coals of the coal measures it does not usually exceed from 5 to 10%. The loss of weight by exposure to the atmosphere from drying may be from to of the total amount of water contained.
Table III. - Composition of Fuels (assuming Carbon = 100).
Carbon. Hydrogen. Oxygen. Disposable
Wood 100 12.18 83.07 1.80
Peat 100 9.85 55.67 2.89
Lignite 100 8.37 42.42 3.07
Thick Coal, S. Staffordshire 100 6.12 21.23 3.47
Hartley Steam Coal 100 5.91 18.32 3.62
South Wales Steam Coal 100 4.75 5.28 4.09
American Anthracite 100 2.84 1.74 2.63
Origin of Coal
Coal is the result of the transformation of woody fibre and other vegetable matter by the elimination of oxygen and hydrogen in proportionally larger quantity than carbon, so that the percentage of the latter element is increased in the manner shown in Table III., given by J. Percy, the mineral matter being also changed by the removal of silica and alkalis and the substitution of substances analogous in composition to fire-clay. The causes and methods of these changes are, however, not very exactly defined. According to the elaborate researches of B. Renault (Bulletin de la Société de l'Industrie minérale, 3 ser. vol. xiii. p. 865), the agents of the transformation of cellulose into peaty substances are saprophytic fungi and bacterial ferments. As the former are only active in the air while the latter are anaerobic, the activity of either agent is conditioned by variation in the water level of the bog. The ultimate term of bacterial activity seems to be the production of ulmic acid, containing carbon 65.31 and hydrogen 3.85%, which is a powerful antiseptic. By the progressive elimination of oxygen and hydrogen, partly as water and partly as carbon dioxide and marsh gas, the ratios of carbon to oxygen and hydrogen in the rendered product increase in the following manner: -
C : H C : O
Cellulose 7.2 0.9
Peat 9.8 1.8
Lignite, imperfect 12.2 2.4
Lignite, perfect 12.6 3.6
The resulting product is a brown pasty or gelatinous substance which binds the more resisting parts of the plants into a compact mass. The same observer considers Boghead coal, kerosene shale and similar substances used for the production of mineral oils to be mainly alteration products of gelatinous fresh water algae, which by a nearly complete elimination of oxygen have been changed to substances approximating in composition to C2H3 and C3H5, where C : H = 7.98 and C : O + N = 46.3. In cannel coals the prevailing constituents are the spores of cryptogamic plants, algae being rare or in many cases absent. By making very thin sections and employing high magnification (1000-1200 diameters), Renault has been enabled to detect numerous forms of bacilli in the woody parts preserved in coal, one of which, Micrococcus carbo, bears a strong resemblance to the living Cladothrix found in trees buried in peat bogs. Clearer evidence of their occurrence has, however, been found in fragments of wood fossilized by silica or carbonate of lime which are sometimes met with in coal seams.
The subsequent change of peaty substance into coal is probably due to geological causes, i.e. chemical and physical processes similar to those that have converted ordinary sediments into rock masses. Such changes seem, however, to have been very rapidly accomplished, as pebbles of completely formed coal are commonly found in the sandstones and coarser sedimentary strata alternating with the coal seams in many coalfields.
The variation in the composition of coal seams in different parts of the same basin is a difficult matter to explain. It has been variously attributed to metamorphism, consequent upon igneous intrusion, earth movements and other kinds of geothermic action, greater or less loss of volatile constituents during the period of coaly transformation, conditioned by differences of permeability in the enclosing rocks, which is greater for sandstones than for argillaceous strata, and other causes; but none of these appears to be applicable over more than limited areas. According to L. Lemière, who has very fully reviewed the relation of composition to origin in coal seams (Bulletin de la Société de l'Industrie minérale, 4 ser. vol. iv. pp. 851 and 1299, vol. v. p. 273), differences in composition are mainly original, the denser and more anthracitic varieties representing plant substance which has been more completely macerated and deprived of its putrescible constituents before submergence, or of which the deposition had taken place in shallow water, more readily accessible to atmospheric oxidizing influences than the deeper areas where conditions favourable to the elaboration of compounds richer in hydrogen prevailed.
The conditions favourable to the production of coal seem therefore to have been - forest growth in swampy ground about the mouths of rivers, and rapid oscillation of level, the coal produced during subsidence being covered up by the sediment brought down by the river forming beds of sand or clay, which, on re-elevation, formed the soil for fresh growths, the alternation being occasionally broken by the deposit of purely marine beds. We might therefore expect to find coal wherever strata of estuarine origin are developed in great mass. This is actually the case; the Carboniferous, Cretaceous and Jurassic systems (qq.v.) contain coal-bearing strata though in unequal degrees, - the first being known as the Coal Measures proper, while the others are of small economic value in Great Britain, though more productive in workable coals on the continent of Europe. The Coal Measures which form part of the Palaeozoic or oldest of the three great geological divisions are mainly confined to the countries north of the equator. Mesozoic coals are more abundant in the southern hemisphere, while Tertiary coals seem to be tolerably uniformly distributed irrespective of latitude.
Sequences of carboniferous strata
The nature of the Coal Measures will be best understood by considering in detail the areas within which they occur in Britain, together with the rocks with which they are most intimately associated. The commencement of the Carboniferous period is marked by a mass of limestones known as the Carboniferous or Mountain Limestone, which contains a large assemblage of marine fossils, and has a maximum thickness in S.W. England and Wales of about 2000 ft. The upper portion of this group consists of shales and sandstones, known as the Yoredale Rocks, which are highly developed in the moorland region between Lancashire and the north side of Yorkshire. These are also called the Upper Limestone Shale, a similar group being found in places below the limestone, and called the Lower Limestone Shale, or, in the north of England, the Tuedian group. Going northward the beds of limestone diminish in thickness, with a proportional increase in the intercalated sandstones and shales, until in Scotland they are entirely subordinate to a mass of coal-bearing strata, which forms the most productive members of the Scotch coalfields. The next member of the series is a mass of coarse sandstones, with some slates and a few thin coals, known as the Millstone Grit, which is about equally developed in England and in Scotland. In the southern coalfields it is usually known by the miners' name of "Farewell rock," from its marking the lower limit of possible coal working. The Coal Measures, forming the third great member of the Carboniferous series, consist of alternations of shales and sandstones, with beds of coal and nodular ironstones, which together make up a thickness of many thousands of feet - from 12,000 to 14,000 ft. when at the maximum of development. They are divisible into three parts, the Lower Coal Measures, the middle or Pennant, a mass of sandstone containing some coals, and the Upper Coal Measures, also containing workable coal. The latter member is marked by a thin limestone band near the top, containing Spirorbis carbonarius, a small marine univalve.
The uppermost portion of the Coal Measures consists of red sandstone so closely resembling that of the Permian group, which are next in geological sequence, that it is often difficult to decide upon the true line of demarcation between the two formations. These are not, however, always found together, the Coal Measures being often covered by strata belonging to the Trias or Upper New Red Sandstone series.
The areas containing productive coal measures are usually known as coalfields or basins, within which coal occurs in more or less regular beds, also called seams or veins, which can often be followed over a considerable length of country without change of character, although, like all stratified rocks, their continuity may be interrupted by faults or dislocations, also known as slips, hitches, heaves or troubles.
The thickness of coal seams varies in Great Britain from a mere film to 35 or 40 ft.; but in the south of France and in India masses of coal are known up to 200 ft. in thickness. These very thick seams are, however, rarely constant in character for any great distance, being found commonly to degenerate into carbonaceous shales, or to split up into thinner beds by the intercalation of shale bands or partings. One of the most striking examples of this is afforded by the thick or ten-yard seam of South Staffordshire, which is from 30 to 45 ft. thick in one connected mass in the neighbourhood of Dudley, but splits up into eight seams, which, with the intermediate shales and sandstones, are of a total thickness of 400 ft. in the northern part of the coalfield in Cannock Chase. Seams of a medium thickness of 3 to 7 ft. are usually the most regular and continuous in character. Cannel coals are generally variable in quality, being liable to change into shales or black-band ironstones within very short horizontal limits. In some instances the coal seams may be changed as a whole, as for instance in South Wales, where the coking coals of the eastern side of the basin pass through the state of dry steam coal in the centre, and become anthracite in the western side.
The most important European coalfields are in Great Britain, Belgium and Germany. In Great Britain there is the South Welsh field, extending westward from the march of Monmouthshire to Kidwelly, and northward to Merthyr Tydfil. A midland group of coalfields extends from south Lancashire to the West Riding of Yorkshire, the two greatest industrial districts in the country, southward to Warwickshire and Staffordshire, and from Nottinghamshire on the east to Flintshire on the west. In the north of England are the rich field of Northumberland and Durham, and a lesser field on the coast of Cumberland (Whitehaven, etc.). Smaller isolated fields are those of the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire) and the field on either side of the Avon above Bristol. Coal has also been found in Kent, in the neighbourhood of Dover. In Scotland coal is worked at various points (principally in the west) in the Clyde-Forth lowlands. In Belgium the chief coal-basins are those of Hainaut and Liége. Coal has also been found in an extension northward from this field towards Antwerp, while westward the same field extends into north-eastern France. Coal is widely distributed in Germany. The principal field is that of the lower Rhine and Westphalia, which centres in the industrial region of the basin of the Ruhr, a right-bank tributary of the Rhine. In the other chief industrial region of Germany, in Saxony, Zwickau and Lugau, are important mining centres. In German Silesia there is a third rich field, which extends into Austria (Austrian Silesia and Galicia), for which country it forms the chief home source of supply (apart from lignite). Part of the same field also lies within Russian territory (Poland) near the point where the frontiers of the three powers meet. Both in Germany and in Austria-Hungary the production of lignite is large - in the first-named especially in the districts about Halle and Cologne; in the second in north-western Bohemia, Styria and Carniola. In France the principal coalfield is that in the north-east, already mentioned; another of importance is the central (Le Creusot, etc.) and a third, the southern, about the lower course of the Rhone. Coal is pretty widely distributed in Spain, and occurs in several districts in the Balkan peninsula. In Russia, besides the Polish field, there is an important one south of Moscow, and another in the lower valley of the Donetz, north of the Sea of Azov. The European region poorest in coal (proportionately to area) is Scandinavia, where there is only one field of economic value - a small one in the extreme south of Sweden.
In Asia the Chinese coalfields are of peculiar interest. They are widely distributed throughout China Proper, but those of the province of Shansi appear to be the richest. Proportionately to their vast extent they have been little worked. In a modified degree the same is true of the Indian fields; large supplies are unworked, but in several districts, especially about Raniganj and elsewhere in Bengal, workings are fully developed. Similarly in Siberia and Japan there are extensive supplies unworked or only partially exploited. Those in the neighbourhood of Semipalatinsk may be instanced in the first case and those in the island of Yezo in the second. In Japan, however, several smaller fields (e.g. in the island of Kiushiu) are more fully developed. Coal is worked to some extent in Sumatra, British North Borneo, and the Philippine Islands.
In the United States of America the Appalachian mountain system, from Pennsylvania southward, roughly marks the line of the chief coal-producing region. This group of fields is followed in importance by the "Eastern Interior" group in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, and the "Western Interior" group in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. In Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and along the line of the Rocky Mountains, extensive fields occur, producing lignite and bituminous coal. The last-named fields are continued northward in Canada (Crow's Nest Pass field, Vancouver Island, etc.). There is also a group of coalfields on the Atlantic seaboard of the Dominion, principally in Nova Scotia. Coal is known at several points in Alaska, and there are rich but little worked deposits in Mexico.
In the southern countries coal-production is insignificant compared with that in the northern hemisphere. In South America coal is known in Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, northern Chile, Brazil (chiefly in the south), and Argentina (Parana, the extreme south of Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego), but in no country are the workings extensive. Africa is apparently the continent poorest in coal, though valuable workings have been developed at various points in British South Africa, e.g. at Kronstad, etc., in Cape Colony, at Vereeniging, Boksburg and elsewhere in the Transvaal, in Natal and in Swaziland. Australia possesses fields of great value, principally in the south-east (New South Wales and Victoria), and in New Zealand considerable quantities of coal and lignite are raised, chiefly in South Island.
The following table, based on figures given in the Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, vol. 72, will give an idea of the coal production of the world: -
Europe: - Tons.
United Kingdom 1905 236,128,936
Germany, coal " 121,298,167
Germany, lignite " 52,498,507
France " 35,869,497
Belgium " 21,775,280
Austria, coal " 12,585,263
Austria, lignite " 22,692,076
Hungary, coal 1904 1,031,501
Hungary, lignite " 5,447,283
Spain 1905 3,202,911
Russia 1904 19,318,000
Holland " 466,997
Bosnia, lignite 1905 540,237
Rumania, lignite 1903 110,000
Servia 1904 183,204
Italy, coal and lignite 1905 412,916
Sweden " 322,384
Greece, lignite 1904 466,997
India 1905 8,417,739
Japan 1903 10,088,845
Sumatra 1904 207,280
Transvaal 1904 2,409,033
Natal 1905 1,129,407
Cape Colony 1904 154,272
United States 1905 350,821,000
Canada 1904 7,509,860
Mexico " 700,000
Peru 1905 72,665
New South Wales 1905 6,632,138
Queensland " 529,326
Victoria " 153,135
Western Australia " 127,364
Tasmania " 51,993
New Zealand " 1,585,756
Coal resources of Great Britain
The questions, what is the total amount of available coal in the coalfields of Great Britain and Ireland, and how long it may be expected to last, have frequently been discussed since the early part of the 19th century, and particular attention was directed to them after the publication of Stanley Jevons's book on The Coal Question in 1865. In 1866 a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the subject, and in its report, issued in 1871, estimated that the coal resources of the country, in seams of 1 ft. thick and upwards situated within 4000 ft. of the surface, amounted to 90,207,285,398 tons. A second commission, which was appointed in 1901 and issued its final report in 1905, taking 4000 ft. as the limit of practicable depth in working and 1 ft. as the minimum workable thickness, and after making all necessary deductions, estimated the available quantity of coal in the proved coalfields of the United Kingdom as 100,914,668,167 tons. Although in the years 1870-1903 the amount raised was 5,694,928,507 tons, this later estimate was higher by 10,707,382,769 tons than that of the previous commission, the excess being accounted for partly by the difference in the areas regarded as productive by the two commissions, and partly by new discoveries and more accurate knowledge of the coal seams. In addition it was estimated that in the proved coalfields at depths greater than 4000 ft. there were 5,239,433,980 tons, and that in concealed and unproved fields, at depths less than 4000 ft. there were 39,483,844,000 tons, together with 854,608,307 tons in that part of the Cumberland coalfield beyond 5 m. and within 12 m. of high-water mark, and 383,024,000 tons in the South Wales coalfield under the sea in St Bride's Bay and part of Carmarthen Bay.
In Table V. below column I. shows the quantity of coal still remaining unworked in the different coalfields at depths not exceeding 4000 ft. and in seams not less than 1 ft. thick, as estimated by seven district commissioners; column II. the total estimated reductions on account of loss in working due to faults and other natural causes in seams and of coal required to be left for barriers, support of surface buildings, etc.; and column III. the estimated net available amount remaining unworked.
District. Coalfield. I. II. III.
A. South Wales and Monmouthshire 33,443,000,339 6,972,003,760 26,470,996,579
Somersetshire and part of Gloucestershire No details No details 4,198,301,099
Forest of Dean 305,928,137 47,394,690 258,533,447
B. North Stafford 5,267,833,074 89,782,727 4,368,050,347
South Stafford 1,953,627,435 538,179,363 1,415,448,072
Warwickshire 1,448,804,556 321,822,653 1,126,981,903
Leicestershire 2,467,583,205 642,124,654 1,825,458,551
Shropshire 369,174,620 48,180,921 320,993,699
C. Lancashire 5,349,554,437 1,111,046,710 4,238,507,727
Cheshire 358,998,172 87,165,901 291,832,271
North Wales 2,513,026,200 776,558,371 1,736,467,829
D. Yorkshire No details No details 19,138,006,395
Derby and Notts No details No details 7,360,725,100
E. Northumberland 7,040,348,127 1,530,722,486 5,509,625,641
Cumberland 2,188,938,830 661,230,025 1,527,708,805
Durham 6,607,700,522 1,336,584,176 5,271,116,346
F. Scotland 21,259,767,661 5,579,311,305 15,681,456,356
G. Ireland No details No details 174,458,000
As regards the duration of British coal resources, the commissioners reported (1905): -
"This question turns chiefly upon the maintenance or the variation of the annual output. The calculations of the last Coal Commission as to the future exports and of Mr Jevons as to the future annual consumption make us hesitate to prophesy how long our coal resources are likely to last. The present annual output is in round numbers 230 million tons, and the calculated available resources in the proved coalfields are in round numbers 100,000 million tons, exclusive of the 40,000 million tons in the unproved coalfields, which we have thought best to regard only as probable or speculative. For the last thirty years the average increase in the output has been 2% per annum, and that in the exports (including bunkers) 4% per annum. It is the general opinion of the District Commissioners that owing to physical considerations it is highly probable that the present rate of increase of the output of coal can long continue - indeed, they think that some districts have already attained their maximum output, but that on the other hand the developments in the newer coalfields will possibly increase the total output for some years.
In view of this opinion and of the exhaustion of the shallower collieries we look forward to a time, not far distant, when the rate of increase of output will be slower, to be followed by a period of stationary output, and then a gradual decline."
According to a calculation made by P. Frech in 1900, on the basis of the then rate of production, the coalfields of central France, central Bohemia, the kingdom of Saxony, the Prussian province of Saxony and the north of England, would be exhausted in 100 to 200 years, the other British coalfields, the Waldenburg-Schatzlar and that of the north of France in 250 years, those of Saarbrücken, Belgium, Aachen and Westphalia in 600 to 800 years, and those of Upper Silesia in more than 1000 years.
(O. J. R. H.; H. M. R.)
Preliminary trial of coalworkings
The opening and laying out, or, as it is generally called, "winning," of new collieries is rarely undertaken without a preliminary examination of the character of the strata by means of borings, either for the purpose of determining the number and nature of the coal seams in new ground, or the position of the particular seam or seams which it is proposed to work in extensions of known coalfields.
The principle of proving a mineral field by boring is illustrated by fig. 1, which represents a line direct from the dip to the rise of the field, the inclination of the strata being one in eight. No. 1 bore is commenced at the dip, and reaches a seam of coal A, at 40 fathoms; at this depth it is considered proper to remove nearer to the outcrop so that lower strata may be bored into at a less depth, and a second bore is commenced. To find the position of No. 2, so as to form a continuous section, it is necessary to reckon the inclination of the strata, which is 1 in 8; and as bore No. 1 was 40 fathoms in depth, we multiply the depth by the rate of inclination, 40 × 8 = 320 fathoms, which gives the point at which the coal seam A should reach the surface. But there is generally a certain depth of alluvial cover which requires to be deducted, and which we call 3 fathoms, then (40 - 3 = 37) × 8 = 296 fathoms; or say 286 fathoms is the distance that the second bore should be placed to the rise of the first, so as to have, for certain, the seam of coal A in clear connexion with the seam of coal B. In bore No. 3, where the seam B, according to the same system of arrangement, should have been found at or near the surface, another seam C is proved at a considerable depth, differing in character and thickness from either of the preceding. This derangement being carefully noted, another bore to the outcrop on the same principle is put down for the purpose of proving the seam C; the nature of the strata at first is found to agree with the latter part of that bored through in No. 3, but immediately on crossing the dislocation seen in the figure it is changed and the deeper seam D is found.
The evidence therefore of these bores (3 and 4) indicates some material derangement, which is then proved by other bores, either towards the dip or the outcrop, according to the judgment of the borer, so as to ascertain the best position for sinking pits. (For the methods of boring see Boring.)
Methods of working
The working of coal may be conducted either by means of levels or galleries driven from the outcrop in a valley, or by shafts or pits sunk from the surface. In the early days of coal-mining, open working, or quarrying from the outcrop of the seams, was practised to a considerable extent; but there are now few if any places in England where this can be done. In 1873 there could be seen, in the thick coal seams of Bengal, near Raniganj, a seam about 50 ft. thick laid bare, over an area of several acres, by stripping off a superficial covering varying from 10 to 30 ft., in order to remove the whole of the coal without loss by pillars. Such a case, however, is quite exceptional. The operations by which the coal is reached and laid out for removal are known as "winning," the actual working or extraction of the coal being termed "getting." In fig. 2 A B is a cross cut level, by which the seams of coal 1 and 2 are won, and C D a vertical shaft by which the seams 1, 2 and 3 are won. When the field is won by the former method, the coal lying above the level is said to be "level-free." The mode of winning by level is of less general application than that by shafts, as the capacity for production is less, owing to the smaller size of roadways by which the coal must be brought to the surface, levels of large section being expensive and difficult to keep open when the mine has been for some time at work. Shafts, on the other hand, may be made of almost any capacity, owing to the high speed in drawing which is attainable with proper mechanism, and allow of the use of more perfect arrangements at the surface than can usually be adopted at the mouth of a level on a hill-side. A more cogent reason, however, is to be found in the fact that the principal coalfields are in flat countries, where the coal can only be reached by vertical sinking.
Sinking of shafts
The methods adopted in driving levels for collieries are generally similar to those adopted in other mines. The ground is secured by timbering, or more usually by arching in masonry or brick-work. Levels like that in fig. 2, which are driven across the stratification, or generally anywhere not in coal, are known as "stone drifts." The sinking of colliery shafts, however, differs considerably from that of other mines, owing to their generally large size, and the difficulties that are often encountered from water during the sinking. The actual coal measure strata, consisting mainly of shales and clays, are generally impervious to water, but when strata of a permeable character are sunk through, such as the magnesian limestone of the north of England, the Permian sandstones of the central counties, or the chalk and greensand in the north of France and Westphalia, special methods are required in order to pass the water-bearing beds, and to protect the shaft and workings from the influx of water subsequently. Of these methods one of the chief is the plan of tubbing, or lining the excavation with an impermeable casing of wood or iron, generally the latter, built up in segments forming rings, which are piled upon each other throughout the whole depth of the water-bearing strata. This method necessitates the use of very considerable pumping power during the sinking, as the water has to be kept down in order to allow the sinkers to reach a water-tight stratum upon which the foundation of the tubbing can be placed. This consists of a heavy cast iron ring, known as a wedging crib, or curb, also fitted together in segments, which is lodged in a square-edged groove cut for its reception, tightly caulked with moss, and wedged into position. Upon this the tubbing is built up in segments, of which usually from 10 to 12 are required for the entire circumference, the edges being made perfectly true. The thickness varies according to the pressure expected, but may be taken at from to 1 in. The inner face is smooth, but the back is strengthened with angle brackets at the corners. A small hole is left in the centre of each segment, which is kept open during the fitting to prevent undue pressure upon any one, but is stopped as soon as the circle is completed. In the north of France and Belgium wooden tubbings, built of polygonal rings, were at one time in general use. The polygons adopted were of 20 or more sides approximating to a circular form.
The second principal method of sinking through water-bearing ground is by compressed air. The shaft is lined with a cylinder of wrought iron, within which a tubular chamber, provided with doors above and below, known as an air-lock, is fitted by a telescopic joint, which is tightly packed so as to close the top of the shaft air-tight. Air is then forced into the inclosed space by means of a compressing engine, until the pressure is sufficient to oppose the flow of water into the excavation, and to drive out any that may collect in the bottom of the shaft through a pipe which is carried through the air-sluice to the surface. The miners work in the bottom in the same manner as divers in an ordinary diving-bell. Access to the surface is obtained through the double doors of the air-sluice, the pressure being reduced to that of the external atmosphere when it is desired to open the upper door, and increased to that of the working space below when it is intended to communicate with the sinkers, or to raise the stuff broken in the bottom. This method has been adopted in various sinkings on the continent of Europe.
The third method of sinking through water-bearing strata is that of boring, adopted by Messrs Kind & Chaudron in Belgium and Germany. For this purpose a horizontal bar armed with vertical cutting chisels is used, which cuts out the whole section of the shaft simultaneously. In the first instance, a smaller cutting frame is used, boring a hole from 3 to 5 ft. in diameter, which is kept some 50 or 60 ft. in advance, so as to receive the detritus, which is removed by a shell pump of large size. The large trepan or cutter weighs about 16 tons, and cuts a hole of from 9 to 15 ft. in diameter. The water-tight lining may be either a wrought iron tube, which is pressed down by jack screws as the borehole advances, or cast iron tubbing put together in short complete rings, in contradistinction to the old plan of building them up of segments. The tubbing, which is considerably less in diameter than the borehole, is suspended by rods from the surface until a bed suitable for a foundation is reached, upon which a sliding length of tube, known as the moss box, bearing a shoulder, which is filled with dried moss, is placed. The whole weight of the tubbing is made to bear on the moss, which squeezes outwards, forming a completely water-tight joint. The interval between the back of the tubbing and the sides of the borehole is then filled up with concrete, which on setting fixes the tubbing firmly in position. With increase in depth, however, the thickness and weight of the cast iron tubbing in a large shaft become almost unmanageable; in one instance, at a depth of 1215 ft., the bottom rings in a shaft 14 ft. in diameter are about 4 in. thick, which is about the limit for sound castings. It has therefore been proposed, for greater depths, to put four columns of tubbings of smaller diameters, 8 and 5 ft., in the shaft, and fill up the remainder of the boring with concrete, so that with thinner and lighter castings a greater depth may be reached. This, however, has not as yet been tried. Another extremely useful method of sinking through water-bearing ground, introduced by Messrs A. & H. T. Poetsch in 1883, and originally applied to shafts passing through quicksands above brown coal seams, has been applied with advantage in opening new pits through the secondary and tertiary strata above the coal measures in the north of France and Belgium, some of the most successful examples being those at Lens, Anzin and Vicq, in the north of France basin. In this system the soft ground or fissured water-bearing rock is rendered temporarily solid by freezing the contained water within a surface a few feet larger in diameter than the size of the finished shaft, so that the ground may be broken either by hand tools or blasting in the same manner as hard rock. The miners are protected by the frozen wall, which may be 4 or 5 ft. thick. The freezing is effected by circulating brine (calcium chloride solution) cooled to 5° F. through a series of vertical pipes closed at the bottom, contained in boreholes arranged at equal distances apart around the space to be frozen, and carried down to a short distance below the bottom of the ground to be secured. The chilled brine enters through a central tube of small diameter, passes to the bottom of the outer one and rises through the latter to the surface, each system of tubes being connected above by a ring main with the circulating pumps. The brine is cooled in a tank filled with spiral pipes, in which anhydrous ammonia, previously liquefied by compression, is vaporized in vacuo at the atmospheric temperature by the sensible heat of the return-current of brine, whose temperature has been slightly raised in its passage through the circulating tubes. When hard ground is reached, a seat is formed for the cast iron tubbing, which is built up in the usual way and concreted at the back, a small quantity of caustic soda being sometimes used in mixing the concrete to prevent freezing. In an application of this method at Vicq, two shafts of 12 and 16.4 ft. diameter, in a covering of cretaceous strata, were frozen to a depth of 300 ft. in fifty days, the actual sinking and lining operations requiring ninety days more. The freezing machines were kept at work for 200 days, and 2191 tons of coal were consumed in supplying steam for the compressors and circulating pumps.
The introduction of these special methods has considerably simplified the problem of sinking through water-bearing strata. Some of the earlier sinkings of this kind, when pumps had to be depended on for keeping down the water, were conducted at great cost, as, for instance, at South Hetton, and more recently Ryhope, near Sunderland, through the magnesian limestone of Durham.
Size of shafts
The size and form of colliery shafts vary in different districts. In the United States and Scotland rectangular pits secured by timber framings are still common, but the tendency is now generally to make them round, 20 ft. being about the largest diameter employed. In the Midland counties, from 7 to 9 ft. is a very common size, but larger dimensions are adopted where a large production is required. Since the accident at Hartley colliery in 1862, caused by the breaking of the pumping-engine beam, which fell into the shaft and blocked it up, whereby the whole of the men then at work in the mine were starved to death, it has been made compulsory upon mine-owners in the United Kingdom to have two pits for each working, in place of the single one divided by walls or brattices which was formerly thought sufficient. The use of two independent connexions - whether separate pits or sections of the same pit, between the surface and the workings - is necessary for the service of the ventilation, fresh air from the surface being carried down one, known as the "downcast," while the foul or return air of the mine rises through the other or "upcast" pit back to the surface. In a heavily-watered mine it is often necessary to establish a special engine-pit, with pumps permanently fixed, or a division of one of the pits may be devoted to this purpose. The pumps, placed close to the point where the water accumulates, may be worked by an engine on the surface by means of heavy reciprocating rods which pass down the shaft, or by underground motors driven by steam, compressed air or electricity.
Where the water does not accumulate very rapidly it is a common practice to allow it to collect in a pit or sump below the working bottom of the shaft, and to draw it off in a water tub or "hoppet" by the main engine, when the latter is not employed in raising coal.
Laying out workings
The laying out of a colliery, after the coal has been won, by sinkings or levels, may be accomplished in various ways, according to the nature of the coal, its thickness and dip, and the extent of ground to be worked. In the South Staffordshire and other Midland coalfields, where only shallow pits are required, and the coals are thick, a pair of pits may be sunk for a very few acres, while in the North of England, on the other hand, where sinking is expensive, an area of some thousands of acres may be commanded from the same number of pits. In the latter case, which represents the most approved practice, the sinking is usually placed about the centre of the ground, so that the workings may radiate in every direction from the pit bottom, with the view of employing the greatest number of hands to advantage. Where a large area cannot be commanded, it is best to sink to the lowest point of the field for the convenience of drawing the coal and water which become level-free in regard to the pit. Where properties are much divided, it is always necessary to maintain a thick barrier of unwrought coal between the boundary of the mine and the neighbouring workings, especially if the latter are to the dip. If a prominent line of fault crosses the area it may usually be a convenient division of the fields into sections or districts. The first process in laying out the workings consists in driving a gallery on the level along the course of the coal seam, which is known as a "dip head level," and a lower parallel one, in which the water collects, known as a "lodgment level." Galleries driven at right angles to these are known as a "dip" or "rise headings," according to their position above or below the pit bottom. In Staffordshire the main levels are also known as "gate roads." To secure the perpendicularity of the shaft, it is necessary to leave a large mass or pillar of the seam untouched around the pit bottom. This pillar is known in Scotland as the "pit bottom stoop." The junction of the levels with the pit is known as the "pit eye"; it is usually of an enlarged section, and lined with masonry or brick-work, so as to afford room for handling the wagons or trams of coal brought from the working faces. In this portion of the pit are generally placed the furnaces for ventilation, and the boilers required for working steam engines underground, as well as the stables and lamp cabin.
Method of working coal
The removal of the coal after the roads have been driven may be effected in many different ways, according to the custom of the district. These may, however, all be considered as modifications of two systems, viz. pillar work and long-wall work. In the former which is also known as "post and stall" or "bord and pillar" in the north of England, "pillar and stall" in South Wales, and "stoop and room" in Scotland, the field is divided into strips by numerous openings driven parallel to the main rise headings, called "bords" or "bord gates," which are again divided by cutting through them at intervals, so as to leave a series of pillars arranged chequer-wise over the entire area. These pillars are left for the support of the roof as the workings advance, so as to keep the mine open and free from waste. In the oldest form of this class of working, where the size of the pillar is equal to the width of the stall or excavation, about of the whole seam will be removed, the remainder being left in the pillars. A portion of this may be got by the process known as robbing the pillars, but the coal so obtained is liable to be very much crushed from the pressure of the superincumbent strata. This crushing may take place either from above or below, producing what are known as "creeps" or "sits."
A coal seam with a soft pavement and a hard roof is the most subject to a "creep." The first indication is a dull hollow sound heard when treading on the pavement or floor, probably occasioned by some of the individual layers parting from each other as shown at a fig. 3; the succeeding stages of creep are shown at b, c, d, f, and g, in the same figure; the last being the final stage, when the coal begins to sustain the pressure from the overlying strata, in common with the disturbed pavement.
"Sits" are the reverse of creeps; in the one case the pavement is forced up, and in the other the roof is forced or falls down, for want of proper support or tenacity in itself. This accident generally arises from an improper size of pillars; some roofs, however, are so difficult to support that sits take place where the half of the coal is left in pillars. Fig. 4 will convey a general idea of the appearance of sits, - k, m, n showing different stages.
The modern method of pillar working is shown in fig. 5. In the Northumberland steam coal district, where it is carried out in the most perfect manner, the bords are 5 to 6 yds. in width, while the pillars are 22 yds. broad and 30 yds. long, which are subsequently got out on coming back. In the same figure is also shown the method of working whole coal and pillars at the same time, a barrier of two or three ranges of pillars or a rib of solid coal being left between the working in the solid and those in the pillars. The space from which the entire quantity of coal has been removed is known in different districts as the "goaf," "gob," or "waste."
Fig. 6 represents the Lancashire system of pillar working. The area is laid out by two pairs of level drifts, parallel to each other, about 150 yds. apart, which are carried to the boundary. About 100 yds. back from the boundary a communication is made between these levels, from which other levels are driven forward, dividing the coal into ribs of about 25 or 30 yds. wide, which are then cut back by taking off the coal in slices from the level towards the rise in breadths of about 6 yds. By this method the whole of the coal is got backwards, the main roads being kept in solid coal; the intermediate levels not being driven till they are wanted, a greater amount of support is given, and the pillars are less crushed than is usual in pillar working.
In the South Wales system of working, cross headings are driven from the main roads obliquely across the rise to get a sufficiently easy gradient for horse roads, and from these the stalls are opened out with a narrow entrance, in order to leave support on either side of the road, but afterwards widening to as great a breadth as the seam will allow, leaving pillars of a minimum thickness. The character of such workings is very irregular in plan, and as the ventilation is attended with considerable difficulty, it is now becoming generally superseded by more improved methods.
The second great principle of working is that known as long-wall or long-work, in which the coal is taken away either in broad faces from roads about 40 or 50 yds. apart and parallel to each other, or along curved faces between roads radiating from the pit bottom - the essential feature in both cases being the removal of the whole of the coal at once, without first sub-dividing it into pillars, to be taken away at a second working. The roof is temporarily supported by wooden props or pack walling of stone, for a sufficient breadth along the face to protect the workmen, and allow them to work together behind. The general character of a long-wall working is shown in fig. 7, which represents an area of about 500 acres of the bottom hard steam coal at Shipley in Derbyshire. The principal road extends from the shafts southward; and on both sides of it the coal has been removed from the light-shaded area by cutting it back perpendicularly towards the boundaries, along faces about 50 yds. in length, those nearest to the shaft being kept in advance of those farther away, producing a step-shaped outline to the face of the whole coal. It will be seen that by this method the whole of the seam, with the exception of the pillars left to protect the main roadways, is removed. The roads for drawing the coal from the working faces to the shaft are kept open by walling through the waste or goaf produced by the fall of the unsupported roof. The straight roads are the air-ways for carrying pure air from the down-cast shaft to the working faces, while the return air passes along the faces and back to the up-cast by the curved road. The above is the method of working long-wall forward, i.e. taking the coal in advance from the pit towards the boundary, with roads kept open through the gob. Another method consists in driving towards the boundary, and taking the coal backward towards the shafts, or working homeward, allowing the waste to close up without roads having to be kept open through it. This is of course preferable, but is only applicable where the owner of the mine can afford to expend the capital required to reach the limit of the field in excess of that necessary when the raising of coal proceeds pari passu with the extension of the main roads. Fig. 6 is substantially a modification of this kind of long-wall work. Fig. 8 represents a method of working practised in the South Yorkshire district, known as bords and banks. The field is divided by levels and headings into rectangular banks, while from the main levels bords or wickets about 30 yds. wide, separated from each other by banks of about the same width, are carried forward in long-wall work, as shown on the left side of the figure, the waste being carefully packed behind so as to secure the ventilation. When these have been worked up to the extremity, as shown on the right side, the intermediate bank is removed by working backward towards the level. This system, therefore, combines both methods of long-wall working, but it is not generally applicable, owing to the difficulty of ventilation, due to the great length of air-way that has to be kept open around the waste on each bank.
The relative advantages of the different methods may be generally stated as follows. Long-wall work is best suited for thin coals, and those having a good roof, i.e. one that gives way gradually and fills up the excavation made by removing the coal without scaling off suddenly and falling into the working faces, when practically the whole of the coal may be removed. Against these advantages must be placed the difficulties attending the maintenance of roads through the goaves, and in some cases the large proportion of slack to round or large coal obtained. Pillar working, in the whole coal, is generally reputed to give a more advantageous proportion of round coal to slack, the latter being more abundantly produced on the removal of the pillars, but as these form only a small portion of the whole seam, the general yield is more advantageous than in the former method. The ventilation of pillar working is often attended with difficulty, and the coal is longer exposed to the influence of the air, a point of importance in some coals, which deteriorate in quality when exposed to a hot damp atmosphere. The great increase in the size of the pillars in the best modern collieries worked upon this principle has, however, done much to approximate the two systems to an equality in other respects.
Where the whole of the coal is removed at once there is less chance of surface damage, when the mines are deep, than with pillar workings. A notable instance of this was afforded at Newstead, Notts, where the ruined front of Newstead Abbey was lowered several feet without any injury to the structure.
Working thick seams
The working of very thick seams presents certain special peculiarities, owing to the difficulties of supporting the roof in the excavated portions, and supplying fresh air to the workings. The most typical example of this kind of working in England is afforded by the thick coal of South Staffordshire, which consists of a series of closely associated coal seams, varying from 8 to 12 or 13, divided from each other by their partings, but making together one great bed of from 25 to 40 ft. or more in thickness. The partings together do not amount to more than 2 or 3 ft. The method of working which has been long in use is represented in fig. 9. The main level or gate road is driven in the benches coal, or lower part of the seam, while a smaller drift for ventilation, called an air heading, is carried above it in one of the upper beds called the slipper coal. From the gate road a heading called a bolt-hole is opened, and extended into a large rectangular chamber, known as a "side of work," large pillars being left at regular intervals, besides smaller ones or cogs. The order in which the coal is cut is shown in the dotted and numbered squares in the figure. The coal is first cut to the top of the slipper coal from below, after which the upper portion is either broken down by wedging or falls of itself. The working of these upper portions is exceedingly dangerous, owing to the great height of the excavations, and fatal accidents from falls of roof are in consequence more common in South Staffordshire than in any other coalfield in this country. The air from the down-cast shaft enters from the gate road, and passes to the up-cast through the air heading above. About one-half of the total coal (or less) is obtained in the first working; the roof is then allowed to fall, and when the gob is sufficiently consolidated, fresh roads are driven through it to obtain the ribs and pillars left behind by a second or even, in some cases, a third working. The loss of coal by this method is very considerable, besides great risk to life and danger from fire. It has, therefore, been to some extent superseded by the long-wall method, the upper half being taken at the first working, and removed as completely as possible, working backwards from the boundaries to the shaft. The lower half is then taken in the same manner, after the fallen roof has become sufficiently consolidated to allow the mine to be re-opened.
In the working of thick seams inclined at a high angle, such as those in the south of France, and in the lignite mines of Styria and Bohemia, the method of working in horizontal slices, about 12 or 15 ft. thick, and filling up the excavation with broken rock and earth from the surface, is now generally adopted in preference to the systems formerly used. At Monceaux les Mines, in France, a seam 40 ft. thick, and dipping at an angle of 20°, is worked in the following manner. A level is driven in a sandstone forming the floor, along the course of the coal, into which communications are made by cross cuts at intervals of 16 yds., which are driven across to the roof, dividing up the area to be worked into panels. These are worked backwards, the coal being taken to a height of 20 ft., the opening being packed up with stone sent down from the surface. As each stage is worked out, the floor level is connected with that next below it by means of an incline, which facilitates the introduction of the packing material. Stuff containing a considerable amount of clay is found to be the best suited for the purpose of filling, as it consolidates readily under pressure.
In France and Germany the method of filling the space left by the removal of the coal with waste rock, quarried underground or sent down from the surface, which was originally used in connexion with the working of thick inclined seams by the method of horizontal slices, is now largely extended to long-wall workings on thin seams, and in Westphalia is made compulsory where workings extend below surface buildings, and safety pillars of unwrought coal are found to be insufficient. With careful packing it is estimated that the surface subsidence will not exceed 40% of the thickness of the seam removed, and will usually be considerably less. The material for filling may be the waste from earlier workings stored in the spoil banks at the surface; where there are blast furnaces in the neighbourhood, granulated slag mixed with earth affords excellent packing. In thick seams packing adds about 5d. per ton to the cost of the coal, but in thinner seams the advantage is on the other side.
In some anthracite collieries in America the small coal or culm and other waste are washed into the exhausted workings by water which gives a compact mass filling the excavation when the water has drained away. A modification of this method, which originated in Silesia, is now becoming of importance in many European coalfields. In this the filling material, preferably sand, is sent down from the surface through a vertical steel pipe mixed with sufficient water to allow it to flow freely through distributing pipes in the levels commanding the excavations to be filled; these are closed at the bottom by screens of boards sufficiently close to retain the packing material while allowing the water to pass by the lower level to the pumping-engine which returns it to the surface.
Methods of cutting coal
The actual cutting of the coal is chiefly performed by manual labour, the tool employed being a sharp-pointed double-armed pick, which is nearly straight, except when required for use in hard rock, when the arms are made with an inclination or "anchored." The terms pike, pick, mandril and slitter are applied to the collier's pick in different districts, the men being known as pikemen or hewers. In driving levels it is necessary to cut grooves vertically parallel to the walls, a process known as shearing; but the most important operation is that known as holing or kirving, which consists in cutting a notch or groove in the floor of the seam to a depth of about 3 ft., measured back from the face, so as to leave the overhanging part unsupported, which then either falls of its own accord within a few hours, or is brought down either by driving wedges along the top, or by blasting. The process of holing in coal is one of the severest kinds of human labour. It has to be performed in a constrained position, and the miner lying on his side has to cut to a much greater height, in order to get room to carry the groove in to a sufficient depth, than is required to bring the coal down, giving rise to a great waste in slack as compared with machine work. This is sometimes obviated by holing in the beds below the coal, or in any portion of a seam of inferior quality that may not be worth working. This loss is proportionately greater in thin than in thick seams, the same quantity being cut to waste in either case. The method of cutting coal on the long-wall system is seen in fig. 10, representing the working at the Shipley colliery. The coal is 40 in. thick, with a seam of fire-clay and a roof of black shale; about 6 in. of the upper part, known as the roof coal, not being worth working, is left behind. A groove of triangular section of 30 in. base and 9 in. high is cut along the face, inclined timber props being placed at intervals to support the overhanging portion until the required length is cut. These are then removed, and the coal is allowed to fall, wedges or blasting being employed when necessary. The roof of the excavation is supported as the coal is removed, by packing up the waste material, and by a double row of props, 2 ft. from each other, placed temporarily along the face. These are placed 5 ft. apart, the props of the back row alternating with those in front. The props used are preferably of small oak or English larch, but large quantities of fir props, cut to the right length, are also imported from the north of Europe. As the work proceeds onwards, the props are withdrawn and replaced in advance, except those that may be crushed by the pressure or buried by sudden falls of the roof.
In Yorkshire hollow square pillars, formed by piling up short blocks of wood or chocks, are often used instead of props formed of a single stem.
In securing the roof and sides of coal workings, malleable iron and steel are now used to some extent instead of timber, although the consumption of the latter material is extremely large. As a substitute for timber props at the face, pieces of steel joists, with the web cut out for a short distance on either end, with the flanges turned back to give a square bearing surface, have been introduced. In large levels only the cap pieces for the roof are made of steel joists, but in smaller ones complete arches made of pieces of rails fish-jointed at the crown are used. In another system introduced by the Mannesmann Tube Company the prop is made up of weldless steel tubes sliding telescopically one within the other, which are fixed at the right height by a screw clamp capable of carrying a load of 15 to 16 tons. These can be most advantageously used on thick seams 6 to 10 ft. or upwards. For shaft linings steel rings of H or channel section supported by intermediate struts are also used, and cross-bearers or buntons of steel joists and rail guides are now generally substituted for wood.
When the coal has been under-cut for a sufficient length, the struts are withdrawn, and the overhanging mass is allowed to fall during the time that the workmen are out of the pit, or it may be brought down by driving wedges, or if it be of a compact character a blast in a borehole near the roof may be required. Sometimes, but rarely, it happens that it is necessary to cut vertical grooves in the face to determine the limit of the fall, such limits being usually dependent upon the cleet or divisional planes in the coal, especially when the work is carried perpendicular to them or on the end.
The substitution of machinery for hand labour in cutting coal has long been a favourite problem with inventors, the earliest plan being that of Michael Meinzies, in 1761, who proposed to work a heavy pick underground by power transmitted from an engine at the surface, through the agencies of spear-rods and chains passing over pulleys; but none of the methods suggested proved to be practically successful until the general introduction of compressed air into mines furnished a convenient motive power, susceptible of being carried to considerable distances without any great loss of pressure. This agent has been applied in various ways, in machines which either imitate the action of the collier by cutting with a pick or make a groove by rotating cutters attached to an endless chain or a revolving disk or wheel. The most successful of the first class, or pick machines, that of William Firth of Sheffield, consists essentially of a horizontal pick with two cutting arms placed one slightly in advance of the other, which is swung backwards and forwards by a pair of bell crank levers actuated by a horizontal cylinder engine mounted on a railway truck. The weight is about 15 cwt. At a working speed of 60 yds. per shift of 6 hours, the work done corresponds to that of twelve average men. The width of the groove cut is from 2 to 3 in. at the face, diminishing to 1 in. at the back, the proportion of waste being very considerably diminished as compared with the system of holing by hand. The use of this machine has allowed a thin seam of cannel, from 10 to 14 in. in thickness, to be worked at a profit, which had formerly been abandoned as too hard to be worked by hand-labour. Pick machines have also been introduced by Jones and Levick, Bidder, and other inventors, but their use is now mostly abandoned in favour of those working continuously.
In the Gartsherrie machine of Messrs Baird, the earliest of the flexible chain cutter type, the chain of cutters works round a fixed frame or jib projecting at right angles from the engine carriage, an arrangement which makes it necessary to cut from the end of the block of coal to the full depth, instead of holing into it from the face. The forward feed is given by a chain winding upon a drum, which hauls upon a pulley fixed to a prop about 30 yds. in advance. This is one of the most compact forms of machine, the smaller size being only 20 in. high. With an air pressure of from 35 to 40 lb. per sq. in., a length of from 300 to 350 ft. of coal is holed, 2 ft. 9 in. deep, in the shift of from 8 to 10 hours. The chain machine has been largely developed in America in the Jeffrey, Link Bell, and Morgan Gardner coal cutters. These are similar in principle to the Baird machine, the cutting agent being a flat link chain carrying a double set of chisel points, which are drawn across the coal face at the rate of about 5 ft. per second; but, unlike the older machines, in which the cutting is done in a fixed plane, the chain with its motor is made movable, and is fed forward by a rack-and-pinion motion as the cutting advances, so that the cut is limited in breadth (3 to 4 ft.), while its depth may be varied up to the maximum travel (8 ft.) of the cutting frame. The carrying frame, while the work is going on, is fixed in position by jack-screws bearing against the roof of the seam, which, when the cut is completed, are withdrawn, and the machine shifted laterally through a distance equal to the breadth of the cut and fixed in position again. The whole operation requires from 8 to 10 minutes, giving a cutting speed of 120 to 150 sq. ft. per hour. These machines weigh from 20 to 22 cwt., and are mostly driven by electric motors of 25 up to 35 h.p. as a maximum. By reason of their intermittent action they are only suited for use in driving galleries or in pillar-and-stall workings.
A simple form of the saw or spur wheel coal-cutting machine is that of Messrs Winstanly & Barker (fig. 11), which is driven by a pair of oscillating engines placed on a frame running on rails in the usual way. The crank shaft carries a pinion which gears into a toothed wheel of a coarse pitch, carrying cutters at the ends of the teeth. This wheel is mounted on a carrier which, being movable about its centre by a screw gearing worked by hand, gives a radial sweep to the cutting edges. When at work it is slowly turned until the carrier is at right angles to the frame, when the cut has attained the full depth. The forward motion is given by a chain winding upon a crab placed in front, by which it is hauled slowly forward. With 25 lb pressure it will hole 3 ft. deep, at the rate of 30 yds. per hour, the cut being only 2 in. high, but it will only work on one side of the carriage. This type has been greatly improved and now is the most popular machine in Great Britain, especially in long-wall workings. W. E. Garforth's Diamond coal cutter, one of the best known, undercuts from 5 to 6 ft. In some instances electric motors have been substituted for compressed-air engines in such machines.
Another class of percussive coal-cutters of American origin is represented by the Harrison, Sullivan and Ingersoll-Sergeant machines, which are essentially large rock-drills without turning gear for the cutting tool, and mounted upon a pair of wheels placed so as to allow the tool to work on a forward slope. When in use the machine is placed upon a wooden platform inclining towards the face, upon which the miner lies and controls the direction of the blow by a pair of handles at the back of the machine, which is kept stationary by wedging the wheels against a stop on the platform. These machines, which are driven by compressed air, are very handy in use, as the height and direction of the cut may be readily varied; but the work is rather severe to the driver on account of the recoil shock of the piston, and an assistant is necessary to clear out the small coal from the cut, which limits the rate of cutting to about 125 sq. ft. per hour.
Another kind of application of machinery to coal mining is that of Messrs Bidder & Jones, which is intended to replace the use of blasting for bringing down the coal. It consists of a small hydraulic press, which forces a set of expanding bits or wedges into a bore-hole previously bored by a long screw augur or drill, worked by hand, the action of the press being continued until a sufficient strain is obtained to bring down the coal. The arrangement is, in fact, a modification of the plug and feather system used in stone quarrying for obtaining large blocks, but with the substitution of the powerful rending force of the hydraulic press for hand-power in driving up the wedges. This apparatus has been used at Harecastle in North Staffordshire, and found to work well, but with the disadvantage of bringing down the coal in unmanageably large masses. A method of wedging down coal sufficiently perfected to be of general application would add greatly to the security of colliers.
The removal of the coal broken at the working face to the pit bottom may in small mines be effected by hand labour, but more generally it is done by horse or mechanical traction, upon railways, the "trams" or "tubs," as the pit wagons are called, being where possible brought up to the face. In steeply inclined seams passes or shoots leading to the main level below are sometimes used, and in Belgium iron plates are sometimes laid in the excavated ground to form a slide for the coal down to the loading place. In some instances travelling belts or creepers have been adopted, which deliver the coal with a reduced amount of breakage, but this application is not common. The capacity of the trams varies with the size of the workings and the shaft. From 5 to 7 cwt. are common sizes, but in South Wales they are larger, carrying up to one ton or more. The rails used are of flat bottomed or bridge section varying in weight from 15 to 25 lb to the yd.; they are laid upon cross sleepers in a temporary manner, so that they can be easily shifted along the working faces, but are carefully secured along main roads intended to carry traffic continuously for some time. The arrangement of the roads at the face is shown in the plan, fig. 10. In the main roads to the pit when the distance is not considerable horse traction may be used, a train of 6 to 15 vehicles being drawn by one horse, but more generally the hauling or, as it is called in the north of England, the leading of the trains of tubs is effected by mechanical traction.
In a large colliery where the shafts are situated near the centre of the field, and the workings extend on all sides, both to the dip and rise, the drawing roads for the coal may be of three different kinds - (1) levels driven at right angles to the dip, suitable for horse roads, (2) rise ways, known as jinny roads, jig-brows, or up-brows, which, when of sufficient slope, may be used as self-acting planes, i.e. the loaded waggons may be made to pull back the empty ones to the working faces, and (3) dip or down-brows, requiring engine power. A road may be used as a self-acting or gravitating incline when the gradient is 1 in 30 or steeper, in which case the train is lowered by a rope passing over a pulley or brake drum at the upper end, the return empty train being attached to the opposite end of the rope and hauled up by the descending load. The arrangements for this purpose vary, of course, with the amount of work to be done with one fixing of the machinery; where it is likely to be used for a considerable time, the drum and brake are solidly constructed, and the ropes of steel or iron wire carefully guided over friction rollers, placed at intervals between the rails to prevent them from chafing and wearing out on the ground. Where the load has to be hauled up a rising gradient, underground engines, driven by steam or compressed air or electric motors, are used. In some cases steam generated in boilers at the surface is carried in pipes to the engines below, but there is less loss of power when compressed air is sent down in the same way. Underground boilers placed near the up-cast pit so that the smoke and gases help the ventilating furnace have been largely used but are now less favourably regarded than formerly. Water-pressure engines, driven by a column of water equal to the depth of the pit, have also been employed for hauling. These can, however, only be used advantageously where there are fixed pumps, the fall of water generating the power resulting in a load to be removed by the expenditure of an equivalent amount of power in the pumping engine above that necessary for keeping down the mine water.
The principal methods in which power can be applied to underground traction are as follows: -
1. Tail rope system.
2. Endless chain system.
3. Endless rope system on the ground.
4. Endless rope system overhead.
The three last may be considered as modifications of the same principle. In the first, which is that generally used in Northumberland and Durham, a single line of rails is used, the loaded tubs being drawn "out bye," i.e. towards the shaft, and the empty ones returned "in bye," or towards the working faces, by reversing the engine; while in the other systems, double lines, with the rope travelling continuously in the same direction, are the rule. On the tail rope plan the engine has two drums worked by spur gearing, which can be connected with, or cast loose from, the driving shaft at pleasure. The main rope, which draws out the loaded tubs, coils upon one drum, and passes near the floor over guide sheaves placed about 20 ft. apart. The tail rope, which is of lighter section than the main one, is coiled on the second drum, passes over similar guide sheaves placed near the roof or side of the gallery round a pulley at the bottom of the plane, and is fixed to the end of the train or set of tubs. When the load is being drawn out, the engine pulls directly on the main rope, coiling it on to its own drum, while the tail drum runs loose paying out its rope, a slight brake pressure being used to prevent its running out too fast. When the set arrives out bye, the main rope will be wound up, and the tail rope pass out from the drum to the end and back, i.e. twice the length of the way; the set is returned in bye, by reversing the engine, casting loose the main, and coupling up the tail drum, so that the tail rope is wound up and the main rope paid out. This method, which is the oldest, is best adapted for ways that are nearly level, or when many branches are intended to be worked from one engine, and can be carried round curves of small radius without deranging the trains; but as it is intermittent in action, considerable engine-power is required in order to get up the required speed, which is from 8 to 10 m. per hour. From 8 to 10 tubs are usually drawn in a set, the ways being often from 2000 to 3000 yds. long. In dip workings the tail rope is often made to work a pump connected with the bottom pulley, which forces the water back to the cistern of the main pumping engine in the pit.
For the endless chain system, which is much used in the Wigan district, a double line of way is necessary, one line for full and the other for empty tubs. The chain passes over a pulley driven by the engine, placed at such a height as to allow it to rest upon the tops of the tubs, and round a similar pulley at the far end of the plane. The forward edge of the tub carries a projecting pin or horn, with a notch into which the chain falls which drags the tub forward. The road at the outer end is made of a less slope than the chain, so that on arrival the tub is lowered, clears the pin, and so becomes detached from the chain. The tubs are placed on at intervals of about 20 yds., the chain moving continuously at a speed of from 2 to 4 m. per hour. This system presents the greatest advantages in point of economy of driving power, especially where the gradients are variable, but is expensive in first cost, and is not well suited for curves, and branch roads cannot be worked continuously, as a fresh set of pulleys worked by bevel gearing is required for each branch.
The endless rope system may be used with either a single or double line of way, but the latter is more generally advantageous. The rope, which is guided upon sheaves between the rails, is taken twice round the head pulley. It is also customary to use a stretching pulley to keep the rope strained when the pull of the load diminishes. This is done by passing a loop at the upper end round a pulley mounted in a travelling frame, to which is attached a weight of about 15 cwt. hanging by a chain. This weight pulls directly against the rope; so if the latter slacks, the weight pulls out the pulley frame and tightens it up again. The tubs are usually formed into sets of from 2 to 12, the front one being coupled up by a short length of chain to a clamping hook formed of two jaws moulded to the curve of the rope which are attached by the "run rider," as the driver accompanying the train is called. This system in many respects resembles the tail rope, but has the advantage of working with one-third less length of rope for the same length of way.
The endless rope system overhead is substantially similar to the endless chain. The wagons are attached at intervals by short lengths of chain lapped twice round the rope and hooked into one of the links, or in some cases the chains are hooked into hempen loops on the main rope. In mines that are worked from the outcrop by adits or day levels traction by locomotives driven by steam, compressed air or electricity is used to some extent. The most numerous applications are in America.
One of the most important branches of colliery work is the management of the ventilation, involving as it does the supply of fresh air to the men working in the pit, as well as the removal of inflammable gases that may be given off by the coal. This is effected by carrying through the workings a large volume of air which is kept continually moving in the same direction, descending from the surface by one or more pits known as intake or downcast pits, and leaving the mine by a return or upcast pit. Such a circulation of air can only be effected by mechanical means when the workings are of any extent, the methods actually adopted being - (1) The rarefaction of the air in the upcast pit by a furnace placed at the bottom; and (2) Exhaustion by machinery at the surface. The former plan, being the older, has been most largely used, but is becoming replaced by some form of machine.
The usual form of ventilating furnace is a plain fire grate placed under an arch, and communicating with the upcast shaft by an inclined drift. It is separated from the coal by a narrow passage walled and arched in brickwork on both-sides. The size of the grate varies with the requirements of the ventilation, but from 6 to 10 ft. broad and from 6 to 8 ft. long are usual dimensions. The fire should be kept as thin and bright as possible, to reduce the amount of smoke in the upcast. When the mine is free from gas, the furnace may be worked by the return air, but it is better to take fresh air directly from the downcast by a scale, or split, from the main current. The return air from fiery workings is never allowed to approach the furnace, but is carried into the upcast by a special channel, called a dumb drift, some distance above the furnace drift, so as not to come in contact with the products of combustion until they have been cooled below the igniting point of fire-damp. Where the upcast pit is used for drawing coal, it is usual to discharge the smoke and gases through a short lateral drift near the surface into a tall chimney, so as to keep the pit-top as clear as possible for working. Otherwise the chimney is built directly over the mouth of the pit.
Mechanical ventilation may be effected either by direct exhaustion or centrifugal displacement of the air to be removed. In the first method reciprocating bells, or piston machines, or rotary machines of varying capacity like gas-works exhausters, are employed. They were formerly used on a very large scale in Belgium and South Wales, but the great weight of the moving parts makes it impossible to drive them at the high speed called for by modern requirements, so that centrifugal fans are now generally adopted instead. An early and very successful machine of this class, the Guibal fan, is represented in fig. 12. The fan has eight arms, framed together of wrought iron bars, with diagonal struts, so as to obtain rigidity with comparative lightness, carrying flat close-boarded blades at their extremities. It revolves with the smallest possible clearance in a chamber of masonry, one of the side walls being perforated by a large round hole, through which the air from the mine is admitted to the centre of the fan. The lower quadrant of the casing is enlarged spirally, so as to leave a narrow rectangular opening at the bottom, through which the air is discharged into a chimney of gradually increasing section carried to a height of about 25 ft. The size of the discharge aperture can be varied by means of a flexible wooden shutter sliding in a groove in a cast iron plate, curved to the slope of the casing. By the use of the spiral guide casing and the chimney the velocity of the effluent air is gradually reduced up to the point of final discharge into the atmosphere, whereby a greater useful effect is realized than is the case when the air streams freely from the circumference with a velocity equal to that of the rotating fan. The power is applied by steam acting directly on a crank at one end of the axle, and the diameter of the fan may be 40 ft. or more.
The Waddle fan, represented in fig. 13, is an example of another class of centrifugal ventilator, in which a close casing is not used, the air exhausted being discharged from the circumference directly into the atmosphere. It consists of a hollow sheet iron drum formed by two conoidal tubes, united together by numerous guide blades, dividing it up into a series of rectangular tubes of diminishing section, attached to a horizontal axle by cast iron bosses and wrought iron arms. The tubes at their smallest part are connected to a cast iron ring, 10 ft. in diameter, but at their outer circumference they are only 2 ft. apart. The extreme diameter is 25 ft.
By the adoption of more refined methods of construction, especially in the shape of the intake and discharge passages for the air and the forms of the fan blades, the efficiency of the ventilating fan has been greatly increased so that the dimensions can be much reduced and a higher rate of speed adopted. Notable examples are found in the Rateau, Ser and Capell fans, and where an electric generating station is available electric motors can be advantageously used instead of steam.
Distribution of air underground
The quantity of air required for a large colliery depends upon the number of men employed, as for actual respiration from 100 to 200 cub. ft. per minute should be allowed. In fiery mines, however, a very much larger amount must be provided in order to dilute the gas to the point of safety. Even with the best arrangements a dangerous increase in the amount of gas is not infrequent from the sudden release of stored-up masses in the coal, which, overpowering the ventilation, produce magazines of explosive material ready for ignition when brought in contact with the flame of a lamp or the blast of a shot. The management of such places, therefore, requires the most constant vigilance on the part of the workmen, especially in the examination of the working places that have been standing empty during the night, in which gas may have accumulated, to see that they are properly cleared before the new shift commences.
The actual conveyance or coursing of the air from the intake to the working faces is effected by splitting or dividing the current at different points in its course, so as to carry it as directly as possible to the places where it is required. In laying out the mine it is customary to drive the levels or roads in pairs, communication being made between them at intervals by cutting through the intermediate pillar; the air then passes along one and returns by the other. As the roads advance other pillars are driven through in the same manner, the passages first made being closed by stoppings of broken rock, or built up with brick and mortar walls, or both. When it is desired to preserve a way from one road or similar class of working to another, double doors placed at sufficient intervals apart to take in one or more trams between them when closed are used, forming a kind of lock or sluice. These are made to shut air-tight against their frames, so as to prevent the air from taking a short cut back to the upcast, while preserving free access between the different districts without following the whole round of the air-ways. The ventilation of ends is effected by means of brattices or temporary partitions of thin boards placed midway in the drift, and extending to within a few feet of the face. The air passes along one side of the brattice, courses round the free end, and returns on the other side. In many cases a light but air-proof cloth, specially made for the purpose, is used instead of wood for brattices, as being more handy and more easily removed. In large mines where the air-ways are numerous and complicated, it often happens that currents travelling in opposite directions are brought together at one point. In these cases it is necessary to cross them. The return air is usually made to pass over the intake by a curved drift carried some distance above in the solid measures, both ways being arched in brickwork, or even in some cases lined with sheet iron so as to ensure a separation not likely to be destroyed in case of an explosion (see figs. 5 and 8). The use of small auxiliary blowing ventilators underground, for carrying air into workings away from the main circuits, which was largely advocated at one time, has lost its popularity, but a useful substitute has been found in the induced draught produced by jets of compressed air or high-pressure water blowing into ejectors. With a jet of 1/200 in. area, a pipe discharging 12/3 gallon of water per minute at 165 lb pressure per sq. in., a circulation of 850 cub. ft. of air per minute was produced at the end of a level, or about five times that obtained from an equal volume of air at 60 lb pressure. The increased resistance, due to the large extension of workings from single pairs of shafts, the ventilating currents having often to travel several miles to the upcast, has led to great increase in the size and power of ventilating fans, and engines from 250 to 500 H.P. are not uncommonly used for such purposes.
The lighting of underground workings in collieries is closely connected with the subject of ventilation. In many of the smaller pits in the Midland districts of England, and generally in South Staffordshire, the coals are sufficiently free from gas, or rather the gases are not liable to become explosive when mixed with air, to allow the use of naked lights, candles being generally used. Oil lamps are employed in many of the Scotch collieries, and are almost universally used in Belgium and other European countries. The buildings near the pit bottom, such as the stables and lamp cabin, and even the main roads for some distance, are often in large collieries lighted with gas brought from the surface, or in some cases the gas given off by the coal is used for the same purpose. Where the gases are fiery, the use of protected lights or safety lamps (q.v.) becomes a necessity.
Composition of gas evolved by coal
The nature of the gases evolved by coal when freshly exposed to the atmosphere has been investigated by several chemists, more particularly by Lyon Playfair and Ernst von Meyer. The latter observer found the gases given off by coal from the district of Newcastle and Durham to contain carbonic acid, marsh gas or light carburetted hydrogen (the fire-damp of the miner), oxygen and nitrogen. A later investigation, by J. W. Thomas, of the gases dissolved or occluded in coals from South Wales basin shows them to vary considerably with the class of coal. The results given below, which are selected from a much larger series published in the Journal of the Chemical Society, were obtained by heating samples of the different coals in vacuo for several hours at the temperature of boiling water: -
Quality. Colliery. Volume
in cub. ft. Composition in Volumes per cent.
Acid. Oxygen. Marsh
Bituminous Cwm Clydach 19.72 5.44 1.05 63.76 29.75
" Lantwit 14.34 9.43 2.25 31.95 56.34
Steam Navigation 89.62 13.21 0.49 81.64 4.66
Anthracite Bonville's Court 198.95 2.62 .. 93.13 4.25
In one instance about 1% of hydride of ethyl was found in the gas from a blower in a pit in the Rhondda district, which was collected in a tube and brought to the surface to be used in lighting the engine-room and pit-bank. The gases from the bituminous house coals of South Wales are comparatively free from marsh gas, as compared with those from the steam coal and anthracite pits. The latter class of coal contains the largest proportion of this dangerous gas, but holds it more tenaciously than do the steam coals, thus rendering the workings comparatively safer. It was found that, of the entire volume of occluded gas in an anthracite, only one-third could be expelled at the temperature of boiling water, and that the whole quantity, amounting to 650 cub. ft. per ton, was only to be driven out by a heat of 300° C. Steam coals being softer and more porous give off enormous volumes of gas from the working face in most of the deep pits, many of which have been the scene of disastrous explosions.
The gases evolved from the sudden outbursts or blowers in coal, which are often given off at a considerable tension, are the most dangerous enemy that the collier has to contend with. They consist almost entirely of marsh gas, with only a small quantity of carbonic acid, usually under 1%, and from 1 to 4% of nitrogen.
Fire-damp when mixed with from four to twelve times its volume of atmospheric air is explosive; but when the proportion is above or below these limits it burns quietly with a pale blue flame.
The danger arising from the presence of coal dust in the air of dry mines, with or without the addition of fire-damp, has, since it was first pointed out by Professor W. Galloway, been made the subject of special inquiries in the principal European countries interested in coal mining; and although certain points are still debatable, the fact is generally admitted as one calling for special precautions. The conclusions arrived at by the royal commission of 1891, which may be taken as generally representative of the views of British colliery engineers, are as follows: -
1. The danger of explosion when gas exists in very small quantities is greatly increased by the presence of coal dust.
2. A gas explosion in a fiery mine may be intensified or indefinitely propagated by the dust raised by the explosion itself.
3. Coal dust alone, without any gas, may cause a dangerous explosion if ignited by a blown-out shot; but such cases are likely to be exceptional.
4. The inflammability of coal dust varies with different coals, but none can be said to be entirely free from risk.
5. There is no probability of a dangerous explosion being produced by the ignition of coal dust by a naked light or ordinary flame.
Danger arising from coal dust is best guarded against by systematically sprinkling or watering the main roads leading from the working faces to the shaft, where the dust falling from the trams in transit is liable to accumulate. This may be done by water-carts or hose and jet, but preferably by finely divided water and compressed air distributed from a network of pipes carried through the workings. This is now generally done, and in some countries is compulsory, when the rocks are deficient in natural moisture. In one instance the quantity of water required to keep down the dust in a mine raising 850 tons of coal in a single shift was 28.8 tons, apart from that required by the jets and motors. The distributing network extended to more than 30 m. of pipes, varying from 3 in. to 1 in. in diameter.
In all British coal-mines, when gas in dangerous quantities has appeared within three months, and in all places that are dry and dusty, blasting is prohibited, except with "permitted" explosives, whose composition and properties have been examined at the testing station at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. A list of those sanctioned is published by the Home Office. They are mostly distinguished by special trade names, and are mainly of two classes - those containing ammonium nitrate and nitrobenzene or nitronaphthalene, and those containing nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose, which are essentially weak dynamites. The safety property attributed to them is due to the depression of the temperature of the flame or products of explosion to a point below that necessary to ignite fire-damp or coal dust in air from a blown-out shot. New explosives that are found to be satisfactory when tested are added to the list from time to time, the composition being stated in all cases.
Methods for enabling miners to penetrate into workings where the atmosphere is totally irrespirable have come into use for saving life after explosions and for repairing shafts and pit-work under water. The aerophore of A. Galibert was in its earlier form a bag of about 12 cub. ft. capacity containing air at a little above atmospheric pressure; it was carried on the back like a knapsack and supplied the means of respiration. The air was continually returned and circulated until it was too much contaminated with carbonic acid to be further used, a condition which limited the use of the apparatus to a very short period. A more extended application of the same principle was made in the apparatus of L. Denayrouze by which the air, contained in cylinders at a pressure of 300 to 350 lb per sq. in., was supplied for respiration through a reducing valve which brought it down nearly to atmospheric pressure. This apparatus was, however, very heavy and became unmanageable when more than an hour's supply was required. The newer forms are based upon the principle, first enunciated by Professor Theodor Schwann in 1854, of carrying compressed oxygen instead of air, and returning the products of respiration through a regenerator containing absorptive media for carbonic acid and water, the purified current being returned to the mouth with an addition of fresh oxygen. The best-known apparatus of this class is that developed by G. A. Meyer at the Shamrock colliery in Westphalia, where a body of men are kept in systematic training for its use at a special rescue station. This corps rendered invaluable service at the exploring and rescue operations after the explosion at Courrières in March 1906, the most disastrous mining accident on record, when 1100 miners were killed. A somewhat similar apparatus called the "weg," after the initials of the inventor, is due to W. E. Garforth of Wakefield. In another form of apparatus advantage is taken of the property possessed by sodium-potassium peroxide of giving off oxygen when damped; the residue of caustic soda and potash yielded by the reaction is used to absorb the carbonic acid of the expired air. Experiments have also been made with a device in which the air-supply is obtained by the evaporation of liquid air absorbed in asbestos.
Underground fires are not uncommon accidents in coal-mines. In the thick coal workings in South Staffordshire the slack left behind in the sides of work is especially liable to fire from so-called spontaneous combustion, due to the rapid oxidization that is set up when finely divided coal is brought in contact with air. The best remedy in such cases is to prevent the air from gaining access to the coal by building a wall round the burning portion, which can in this way be isolated from the remainder of the working, and the fire prevented from spreading, even if it cannot be extinguished. When the coal is fired by the blast of an explosion it is often necessary to isolate the mine completely by stopping up the mouths of the pits with earth, or in extreme cases it must be flooded with water or carbonic acid before the fire can be brought under. There have been several instances of this being done in the fiery pits in the Barnsley district, notably at the great explosion at the Oaks colliery in 1866, when 360 lives were lost.
Methods of winding
The drawing or winding of the coal from the pit bottom to the surface is one of the most important operations in coal mining, and probably the department in which mechanical appliances have been brought to the highest state of development.
The different elements making up the drawing arrangements of a colliery are - (1) the cage, (2) the shaft or pit fittings, (3) the drawing-rope, (4) the engine and (5) the surface arrangements. The cage, as its name implies, consists of one or more platforms connected by an open framework of vertical bars of wrought iron or steel, with a top bar to which the drawing-rope is attached. It is customary to have a curved sheet iron roof or bonnet when the cage is used for raising or lowering the miners, to protect them from injury by falling materials. The number of platforms or decks varies considerably; in small mines only a single one may be used, but in the larger modern pits two-, three- or even four-decked cages are used. The use of several decks is necessary in old pits of small section, where only a single tram can be carried on each. In the large shafts of the Northern and Wigan districts the cages are made about 8 ft. long and 3 ft. broad, being sufficient to carry two large trams on one deck. These are received upon a railway made of two strips of angle iron of the proper gauge for the wheels, and are locked fast by a latch falling over their ends. At Cadeby Main with four-decked cages the capacity is eight 10-cwt. tubs or 4 tons of coal.
The guides or conductors in the pit may be constructed of wood, in which case rectangular fir beams, about 3 by 4 in., are used, attached at intervals of a few feet to buntons or cross-beams built into the lining of the pit. Two guides are required for each cage; they may be placed opposite to each other, either on the long or short sides - the latter being preferable. The cage is guided by shoes of wrought iron, a few inches long and bell-mouthed at the ends, attached to the horizontal bars of the framing, which pass loosely over the guides on three sides, but in most new pits rail guides of heavy section are used. They are applied on one side of the cage only, forming a complete vertical railway, carried by iron cross sleepers, with proper seats for the rails instead of wooden buntons; the cage is guided by curved shoes of a proper section to cover the heads of the rails. Rigid guides connected with the walling of the pit are probably the best and safest, but they have the disadvantage of being liable to distortion, in case of the pit altering its form, owing to irregular movements of the ground, or other causes. Wooden guides being of considerable size, block up a certain portion of the area of the pit, and thus offer an impediment to the ventilation, especially in upcast shafts, where the high temperature, when furnace ventilation is used, is also against their use. In the Lancashire and the Midland districts wire-rope guides have been introduced to a very considerable extent, with a view of meeting the above objections. These are simply wire-ropes, from to 1 in. in diameter, hanging from a cross-bar connected with the pit-head framing at the surface, and attached to a similar bar at the bottom, which are kept straight by a stretching weight of from 30 cwt. to 4 tons attached to the lower bar. In some cases four guides are used - two to each of the long sides of the cage; but a more general arrangement is to have three - two on one side, and the third in an intermediate position on the opposite side. Many colliery managers, however, prefer to have only two opposite guides, as being safer. The cage is connected by tubular clips, made in two pieces and bolted together, which slide over the ropes. In addition to this it is necessary to have an extra system of fixed guides at the surface and at the bottom, where it is necessary to keep the cage steady during the operations of loading and landing, there being a much greater amount of oscillation during the passage of the cage than with fixed guides. For the same reason it is necessary to give a considerable clearance between the two lines of guides, which are kept from 15 to 18 in. apart, to prevent the possibility of the two cages striking each other in passing. With proper precautions, however, wire guides are perfectly safe for use at the highest travelling speed.
The cage is connected with the drawing-rope by short lengths of chain from the corners, known as tackling chains, gathered into a central ring to which the rope is attached. Round steel wire-ropes, about 2 in. in diameter, are now commonly used; but in very deep pits they are sometimes tapered in section to reduce the dead weight lifted. Flat ropes of steel or iron wire were and are still used to a great extent, but round ones are now generally preferred. In Belgium and the north of France flat ropes of aloe fibre (Manila hemp or plantain fibre) are in high repute, being considered preferable by many colliery managers to wire, in spite of their great weight. A rope of this class for a pit 1200 metres deep, tapered from 15.6 in. to 9 in. in breadth and from 2 in. to 11/8 in. in thickness, weighed 14.3 tons, and another at Anzin, intended to lift a gross load of 15 tons from 750 metres, is 22 in. broad and 3 in. thick at the drum end, and weighs 18 tons. Tapered round ropes, although mechanically preferable, are not advantageous in practice, as the wear being greater at the cage end than on the drum it is necessary to cut off portions of the former at intervals. Ultimately also the ropes should be reversed in position, and this can only be done with a rope of uniform section.
The engines used for winding or hoisting in collieries are usually direct-acting with a pair of horizontal cylinders coupled directly to the drum shaft. Steam at high pressure exhausting into the atmosphere is still commonly used, but the great power required for raising heavy loads from deep pits at high speeds has brought the question of fuel economy into prominence, and more economical types of the two-cylinder tandem compound class with high initial steam pressure, superheating and condensing, have come in to some extent where the amount of work to be done is sufficient to justify their high initial cost. One of the earliest examples was erected at Llanbradack in South Wales in 1894, and they have been somewhat extensively used in Westphalia and the north of France. In a later example at the Bargold pit of the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company a mixed arrangement is adopted with horizontal high-pressure and vertical low-pressure cylinders. This engine draws a net load of 55 tons of coal from a depth of 625 yds. in 45 seconds, the gross weight of the four trams, cage and chains, and rope, with the coal, being 20 tons 12 cwt. The work of the winding engine, being essentially of an intermittent character, can only be done with condensation when a central condenser keeping a constant vacuum is used, and even with this the rush of steam during winding may be a cause of disturbance. This difficulty may be overcome by using Rateau's arrangement of a low-pressure turbine between the engine and the condenser. The accumulator, which is similar in principle to the thermal storage system of Druitt Halpin, is a closed vessel completely filled with water, which condenses the excess of steam during the winding period, and becoming superheated maintains the supply to the turbine when the main engine is standing. The power so developed is generally utilized in the production of electricity, for which there is an abundant use about large collieries.
The drum, when round ropes are used, is a plain broad cylinder, with flanged rims, and cased with soft wood packing, upon which the rope is coiled; the breadth is made sufficient to take the whole length of the rope at two laps. One drum is usually fixed to the shaft, while the other is loose, with a screw link or other means of coupling, in order to be able to adjust the two ropes to exactly the same length, so that one cage may be at the surface when the other is at the bottom, without having to pay out or take up any slack rope by the engine.
For flat ropes the drum or bobbin consists of a solid disk, of the width of the rope fixed upon the shaft, with numerous parallel pairs of arms or horns, arranged radially on both sides, the space between being just sufficient to allow the rope to enter and coil regularly upon the preceding lap. This method has the advantage of equalizing the work of the engine throughout the journey, for when the load is greatest, with the full cage at the bottom and the whole length of rope out, the duty required in the first revolution of the engine is measured by the length of the smallest circumference; while the assistance derived from gravitating action of the descending cage in the same period is equal to the weight of the falling mass through a height corresponding to the length of the largest lap, and so on, the speed being increased as the weight diminishes, and vice versa. The same thing can be effected in a more perfect manner by the use of spiral or scroll drums, in which the rope is made to coil in a spiral groove upon the surface of the drum, which is formed by the frusta of two obtuse cones placed with their smaller diameters outwards. This plan, though mechanically a very good one, has certain defects, especially in the possibility of danger resulting from the rope slipping sideways, if the grooves in the bed are not perfectly true. The great size and weight of such drums are also disadvantages, as giving rather unmanageable dimensions in a very deep pit. In some cases, therefore, a combined form is adopted, the body of the drum being cylindrical, and a width equal to three or four laps conical on either side.
Counterbalance chains for the winding engines are used in the collieries of the Midland districts of England. In this method a third drum is used to receive a heavy flat link chain, shorter than the main drawing-ropes, the end of which hangs down a special or balance pit. At starting, when the full load is to be lifted, the balance chain uncoils, and continues to do so until the desired equilibrium between the working loads is attained, when it is coiled up again in the reverse direction, to be again given out on the return trip.
In Koepe's method the drum is replaced by a disk with a grooved rim for the rope, which passes from the top of one cage over the guide pulley, round the disk, and back over the second guide to the second cage, and a tail rope, passing round a pulley at the bottom of the shaft, connects the bottoms of the cages, so that the dead weight of cage, tubs and rope is completely counterbalanced at all positions of the cages, and the work of the engine is confined to the useful weight of coal raised. Motion is communicated to the rope by frictional contact with the drum, which is covered through about one-half of the circumference. This system has been used in Nottinghamshire, and at Sneyd, in North Staffordshire. In Belgium it was tried in a pit 940 metres deep, where it has been replaced by flat hempen ropes, and is now restricted to shallower workings. In Westphalia it is applied in about thirty different pits to a maximum depth of 761 metres.
A novelty in winding arrangements is the substitution of the electromotor for the steam engine, which has been effected in a few instances. In one of the best-known examples, the Zollern colliery in Westphalia, the Koepe system is used, the winding disk being driven by two motors of 1200 H.P. each on the same shaft. Motion is obtained from a continuous-current generator driven by an alternating motor with a very heavy fly-wheel, a combination known as the Ilgner transformer, which runs continuously with a constant draught on the generating station, the extremely variable demand of the winding engine during the acceleration period being met by the energy stored in the fly-wheel, which runs at a very high speed. This arrangement works admirably as regards smoothness and safety in running, but the heavy first cost and complication stand in the way of its general adoption. Nevertheless about 60 electric winding engines were at work or under construction in May 1906.
The surface arrangements of a modern deep colliery are of considerable extent and complexity, the central feature being the head gear or pit frame carrying the guide pulleys which lead the winding ropes from the axis of the pit to the drum. This is an upright frame, usually made in wrought iron or steel strutted by diagonal thrust beams against the engine-house wall or other solid abutments, the height to the bearings of the guide pulleys being from 80 to 100 ft. or more above the ground level. This great height is necessary to obtain head-room for the cages, the landing platforms being usually placed at some considerable height above the natural surface. The pulleys, which are made as large as possible up to 20 ft. in diameter to diminish the effect of bending strains in the rope by change in direction, have channelled cast iron rims with wrought iron arms, a form combining rigidity with strength, in order to keep down their weight.
To prevent accidents from the breaking of the rope while the cage is travelling in the shaft, or from over-winding when in consequence of the engine not being stopped in time the cage may be drawn up to the head-gear pulleys (both of which are unhappily not uncommon), various forms of safety catches and disconnecting hooks have been adopted. The former contrivances consist essentially of levers or cams with toothed surfaces or gripping shoes mounted upon transverse axes attached to the sides of the cage, whose function is to take hold of the guides and support the cage in the event of its becoming detached from the rope. The opposite axes are connected with springs which are kept in compression by tension of the rope in drawing but come into action when the pull is released, the side axes then biting into wooden guides or gripping those of steel bars or ropes. The use of these contrivances is more common in collieries on the continent of Europe, where in some countries they are obligatory, than in England, where they are not generally popular owing to their uncertainty in action and the constant drag on the guides when the rope slacks.
For the prevention of accidents from over-winding, detaching hooks are used. These consist essentially of links formed of a pair of parallel plates joined by a central bolt forming a scissors joint which is connected by chain links to the cage below and the winding-rope above. The outer sides of the link are shaped with projecting lugs above. When closed by the load the width is sufficient to allow it to enter a funnel-shaped guide on a cross-bar of the frame some distance above the bank level, but on reaching the narrower portion of the guide at the top the plates are forced apart which releases the ropes and brings the lugs into contact with the top of the cross-bar which secures the cage from falling.
Three principal patterns, those of King, Ormerod and Walker, are in use, and they are generally efficient supposing the speed of the cage at arrival is not excessive. To guard against this it is now customary to use some speed-checking appliance, independent of the engine-man, which reduces or entirely cuts off the steam supply when the cage arrives at a particular point near the surface, and applies the brake if the load is travelling too quickly. Maximum speed controllers in connexion with the winding indicator, which do not allow the engine to exceed a fixed rate of speed, are also used in some cases, with recording indicators.
Striking and screening
When the cage arrives at the surface, or rather the platform forming the working top above the mouth of the pit, it is received upon the keeps, a pair of hinged gratings which are kept in an inclined position over the pit-top by counter-balance weights, so that they are pushed aside to allow the cage to pass upwards, but fall back and receive it when the engine is reversed. The tubs are then removed or struck by the landers, who pull them forward on to the platform, which is covered with cast iron plates; at the same time empty ones are pushed in from the opposite side. The cage is then lifted by the engine clear of the keeps, which are opened by a lever worked by hand, and the empty tubs start on the return trip. When the cage has several decks, it is necessary to repeat this operation for each, unless there is a special provision made for loading and discharging the tubs at different levels. An arrangement of this kind for shifting the load from a large cage at one operation was introduced by Fowler at Hucknall, in Leicestershire, where the trains are received into a framework with a number of platforms corresponding to those of the cage, carried on the head of a plunger movable by hydraulic pressure in a vertical cylinder. The empty tubs are carried by a corresponding arrangement on the opposite side. By this means the time of stoppage is reduced to a minimum, 8 seconds for a three-decked cage as against 28 seconds, as the operations of lowering the tubs to the level of the pit-top, discharging, and replacing them are performed during the time that the following load is being drawn up the pit.
In the United Kingdom the drawing of coal is generally confined to the day shift of eight hours, with an output of from 100 to 150 tons per hour, according to the depth, capacity of coal tubs, and facilities for landing and changing tubs. With Fowler's hydraulic arrangement 2000 tons are raised 600 yds. in eight hours. In the deeper German pits, where great thicknesses of water-bearing strata have to be traversed, the first establishment expenses are so great that in order to increase output the shaft is sometimes provided with a complete double equipment of cages and engines. In such cases the engines may be placed in line on opposite sides of the pit, or at right angles to each other. It is said that the output of single shafts has been raised by this method to 3500 and 4500 tons in the double shift of sixteen hours. It is particularly well suited to mines where groups of seams at different depths are worked simultaneously. Some characteristic figures of the yield for British collieries in 1898 are given below: -
Albion Colliery, South Wales 551,000 tons in a year for one shaft and one engine.
Silksworth Colliery, Northumberland 535,000 tons in a year for shaft 580 yds. deep, two engines.
Bolsover Colliery, Derby 598,798 tons in 279 days, shaft 365 yds. deep.
Denaby Main Colliery, Yorkshire 629,947 tons in 281 days, maximum per day 2673 tons.
At Cadeby Main colliery near Doncaster in 1906, 3360 tons were drawn in fourteen hours from one pit 763 yds. deep.
The tub when brought to the surface, after passing over a weigh-bridge where it is weighed and tallied by a weigher specially appointed for the purpose by the men and the owner jointly, is run into a "tippler," a cage turning about a horizontal axis which discharges the load in the first half of the rotation and brings the tub back to the original position in the second. It is then run back to the pit-bank to be loaded into the cage at the return journey.
Coal as raised from the pit is now generally subjected to some final process of classification and cleaning before being despatched to the consumer. The nature and extent of these operations vary with the character of the coal, which if hard and free from shale partings may be finished by simple screening into large and nut sizes and smaller slack or duff, with a final hand-picking to remove shale and dust from the larger sizes. But when there is much small duff, with intermixed shale, more elaborate sizing and washing plant becomes necessary. Where hand-picking is done, the larger-sized coal, separated by 3-in. bar screens, is spread out on a travelling band, which may be 300 ft. long and from 3 to 5 wide, and carried past a line of pickers stationed along one side, who take out and remove the waste as it passes by, leaving the clean coal on the belt. The smaller duff is separated by vibrating or rotating screens into a great number of sizes, which are cleaned by washing in continuous current or pulsating jigging machines, where the lighter coal rises to the surface and is removed by a stream of water, while the heavier waste falls and is discharged at a lower level, or through a valve at the bottom of the machine. The larger or "nut" sizes, from in. upwards, are washed on plain sieve plates, but for finer-grained duff the sieve is covered with a bed of broken felspar lumps about 3 in. thick, forming a kind of filter, through which the fine dirt passes to the bottom of the hutch. The cleaned coal is carried by a stream of water to a bucket elevator and delivered to the storage bunkers, or both water and coal may be lifted by a centrifugal pump into a large cylindrical tank, where the water drains away, leaving the coal sufficiently dry for use. Modern screening and washing plants, especially when the small coal forms a considerable proportion of the output, are large and costly, requiring machinery of a capacity of 100 to 150 tons per hour, which absorbs 350 to 400 H.P. In this, as in many other cases, electric motors supplied from a central station are now preferred to separate steam-engines.
Anthracite coal in Pennsylvania is subjected to breaking between toothed rollers and an elaborate system of screening, before it is fit for sale. The largest or lump coal is that which remains upon a riddle having the bars 4 in. apart; the second, or steamboat coal, is above 3 in.; broken coal includes sizes above 2 or 2 in.; egg coal, pieces above 2 in. sq.; large stove coal, 1 in.; small stove, 1 to 1 or 11/3 in.; chestnut coal, 2/3 to in.; pea coal, in.; and buckwheat coal, 1/3 in. The most valuable of these are the egg and stove sizes, which are broken to the proper dimensions for household use, the larger lumps being unfit for burning in open fire-places. In South Wales a somewhat similar treatment is now adopted in the anthracite districts.
Depth of working
With the increased activity of working characteristic of modern coal mining, the depth of the mines has rapidly increased, and at the present time the level of 4000 ft., formerly assumed as the possible limit for working, has been nearly attained. The following list gives the depths reached in the deepest collieries in Europe in 1900, from which it will be seen that the larger number, as well as the deepest, are in Belgium: -
Saint Henriette, Cie des Produits, Flenu, Belgium 1150 3773
Viviers Gilly " 1143 3750
Marcinelle, No. 11, Charleroi " 1075 3527
Marchienne, No. 2, Charleroi " 1065 3494
Agrappe, Mons " 1060 3478
Pendleton dip workings Lancashire 1059 3474
Sacré Madame, Charleroi Belgium 1055 3461
Ashton Moss dip workings Lancashire 1024 3360
Ronchamp, No. 11 pit France 1015 3330
Viernoy, Anderlues Belgium 1006 3301
Astley Pit, Dukinfield, dip workings Cheshire 960 3150
Saint André, Poirier, Charleroi Belgium 950 3117
The greatest depth attained in the Westphalian coal is at East Recklinghausen, where there are two shafts 841 metres (2759 ft.) deep.
The subject of the limiting depth of working has been very fully studied in Belgium by Professor Simon Stassart of Mons ("Les Conditions d'exploitation à grande profondeur en Belgique," Bulletin de la Société de l'Industrie minérale, 3 ser., vol. xiv.), who finds that no special difficulty has been met with in workings above 1100 metres deep from increased temperature or atmospheric pressure. The extreme temperatures in the working faces at 1150 metres were 79° and 86° F., and the maximum in the end of a drift, 100°; and these were quite bearable on account of the energetic ventilation maintained, and the dryness of the air. The yield per man on the working faces was 4.5 tons, and for the whole of the working force underground, 0.846 tons, which is not less than that realized in shallower mines. From the experience of such workings it is considered that 1500 metres would be a possible workable depth, the rock temperature being 132°, and those of the intake and return galleries, 92° and 108° respectively. Under such conditions work would be practically impossible except with very energetic ventilation and dry air. It would be scarcely possible to circulate more than 120,000 to 130,000 cub. ft. per minute under such conditions, and the number of working places would thus be restricted, and consequently the output reduced to about 500 tons per shift of 10 hours, which could be raised by a single engine at the surface without requiring any very different appliances from those in current use.
Ownership of coal
In the United Kingdom the ownership of coal, like that of other minerals, is in the proprietor of the soil, and passes with it, except when specially reserved in the sale. Coal lying under the sea below low-water mark belongs to the crown, and can only be worked upon payment of royalties, even when it is approached from shafts sunk upon land in private ownership. In the Forest of Dean, which is the property of the crown as a royal forest, there are certain curious rights held by a portion of the inhabitants known as the Free Miners of the Forest, who are entitled to mine for coal and iron ore, under leases, known as gales, granted by the principal agent or gaveller representing the crown, in tracts not otherwise occupied. This is the only instance in Great Britain of the custom of free coal-mining under a government grant or concession, which is the rule in almost every country on the continent of Europe.
Coal Mines Regulation Act
The working of collieries in the United Kingdom is subject to the provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887, as amended by several minor acts, administered by inspectors appointed by the Home Office, and forming a complete disciplinary code in all matters connected with coal-mining. An important act was passed in 1908, limiting the hours of work below ground of miners. For a detailed account of these various acts see the article Labour Legislation.
Coal-mining is unfortunately a dangerous occupation, more than a thousand deaths from accident being reported annually by the inspectors of mines as occurring in the collieries of the United Kingdom.
The number of lives lost during the year 1906 was, according to the inspectors' returns: -
From explosions 54
From falls of ground 547
From other underground accidents 328
From accidents in shafts 65
From surface accidents 135
The principal sources of danger to the collier, as distinguished from other miners, are explosions of fire-damp and falls of roof in getting coal; these together make up about 70% of the whole number of deaths. It will be seen that the former class of accidents, though often attended with great loss of life at one time, are less fatal than the latter.
AUTHORITIES - The most important new publication on British coal is that of the royal commission on coal supplies appointed in 1901, whose final report was issued in 1905. A convenient digest of the evidence classified according to subjects was published by the Colliery Guardian newspaper in three quarto volumes in 1905-1907, and the leading points bearing on the extension and resources of the different districts were incorporated in the fifth edition (1905) of Professor Edward Hull's Coal Fields of Great Britain. The Report of the earlier royal commission (1870), however, still remains of great value, and must not be considered to have had its conclusions entirely superseded. In connexion with the re-survey in greater detail of the coalfields by the Geological Survey a series of descriptive memoirs were undertaken, those on the North Staffordshire and Leicestershire fields, and nine parts dealing with that of South Wales, having appeared by the beginning of 1908.
An independent work on the coal resources of Scotland under the title of the Coalfields of Scotland, by R. W. Dixon, was published in 1902.
The Rhenish-Westphalian coalfield was fully described in all details, geological, technical and economic, in a work called Die Entwickelung des niederrheinisch-westfälischen Steinkohlen Bergbaues in der zweiten Hälfte des 19ten Jahrhunderts (also known by the short title of Sammelwerk) in twelve quarto volumes, issued under the auspices of the Westphalian Coal Trade Syndicate (Berlin, 19O2-1905).
The coalfields of the Austrian dominions (exclusive of Hungary) are described in Die Mineralkohlen Osterreichs, published at Vienna by the Central Union of Austrian mineowners. It continues the table of former official publications in 1870 and 1878, but in much more detail than its predecessors.
Systematic detailed descriptions of the French coalfields appear from time to time under the title of Etudes sur les gîtes minéraux de la France from the ministry of public works in Paris.
Much important information on American coals will be found in the three volumes of Reports on the Coal Testing Plant at the St Louis Exhibition, published by the United States Geological Survey in 1906. A special work on the Anthracite Coal Industry of the United States, by P. Roberts, was published in 1901.
The most useful general work on coal mining is the Text Book of Coal Mining, by H. W. Hughes, which also contains detailed bibliographical lists for each division of the text. The 5th edition appeared in 1904.
Current progress in mining and other matters connected with coal can best be followed by consulting the abstracts and bibliographical lists of memoirs on these subjects that have appeared in the technical journals of the world contained in the Journal of the Institute of Mining Engineers and that of the Iron and Steel Institute. The latter appears at half-yearly intervals and includes notices of publications up to about two or three months before the date of its publication.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)