August 8, 2005
The term “Retreat Mining” refers to the practice of systematically recovering coal from the remaining pillars of a room and pillar mine that have been fully developed. Also called “rib work” or “pillar extraction,” this mining method requires very precise planning and sequencing to ensure roof stability while the pillars supporting the roof are removed. The vast majority of retreat mines in the United States can be found working Appalachian deposits in West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama and Virginia.
On August 3, 2005, two Kentucky miners were killed in a roof fall that occurred while they were removing coal from existing pillars. This represents the third and fourth Kentucky miners killed within the past 13 months while engaged in retreat mining.
In response to the accidents, the Kentucky office of Mine Safety and Licensing contracted an independent engineering firm to conduct a study of Retreat Mining. The study will examine issues that include the influence of geological features, regulatory programs in other states and the possible use of newer mining techniques.
As this mining method undergoes a renewed emphasis, please click on the following link for a review of “Best Practices” for Retreat Mining that was published by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA):
Also, anyone with new or specialized information on techniques for ensuring miners' safety during retreat mining is encouraged to contact the ASSE Mining Practice Specialty with any guidance you can offer.