Lightweight Composite Conveyor Support Structures for Underground Coal Mines Applications

Underground » Roadway Development

Published: June 23Project Number: C33013

Get ReportAuthor: Gangadhara Prusty, Serkan Saydam, Sangarapillai Kanapathipillai & Phyo Thu Muang | University of New South Wales

Underground mines heavily rely on belt conveyor systems for efficient transportation of mined products, traditionally using steel conveyor structures. However, the weight and manual handling risks associated with steel structures pose safety concerns and productivity losses. Lightweight alternatives, such as fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites, offer a higher strength-to-weight ratio and improved fatigue resistance, making them suitable for conveyor structures. Implementing FRP composites can enhance handling capabilities, facilitate easier installation, and increase transportation capacity. However, fire hazards and stringent safety regulations in underground mines require careful consideration and preventive measures when using non-metallic materials like FRP composites. Understanding the design parameters and requirements of conveyor systems in underground mining is crucial for developing composite conveyor support frames.

This report presents the investigation of fire retardant composite materials for conveyor support structures and discusses experimental testing of a lightweight composite prototype frame for application in underground mines.

The report is structured into seven chapters, each chapter addressing the following topics:

  • Chapter 1 introduces the research background, project objectives, and plan overview for conveyor support structures and composite materials.
  • Chapter 2 reviews composite materials, including fibre and resin types, and fire-retardant composites.
  • Chapter 3 conducts fire and mechanical testing of glass fibre-reinforced composites to select the most suitable candidate.
  • Chapter 4 outlines the belt conveyor support structure, prototype frame design, and numerical model creation.
  • Chapter 5 presents experimental testing of the prototype support frame, discussing structural performance, load-bearing capacity, safety, and numerical validation.
  • Chapter 6 analyses the weight and cost of the composite support structure, highlighting lightweight benefits and cost competitiveness against steel frames.
  • Chapter 7 summarises key conclusions from the project and suggests future research opportunities.


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