Coordination of Roadway Development Strategy

Underground » Roadway Development

Published: February 97Project Number: C5013

Get ReportAuthor: Michael Kelly | CSIRO Exploration & Mining

Roadway development is one of the most important issues facing the profitability, viability and future of underground coal mines. For the last decade roadway development has been unable to keep pace with improvements in longwall extraction rates.

In this period, average longwall productivity has doubled whereas roadway development rates have shown little improvement, or in some studies have in fact become worse.

With projections of similar improvements in longwall productivity over the next ten years it has been apparent that a concentrated industry effort is required to raise roadway development rates to catch up and match longwall improvements.

As a first step in this process the ACARP Mining Systems Taskforce initiated the Australian Coal Association Underground Roadway Development Workshop in September 1994.

One of the major recommendations from the workshop was for the use of a systems or process engineering approach when formulating strategies to address the complex problems facing advances in roadway development. The workshop further concluded that the three principal areas that needed to be addressed were geotechnical and support systems, roadway development systems and outburst control.

Following these recommendations, it was proposed by the ACARP Mining Systems Taskforce that a detailed strategy and business plan for the future direction of Roadway Development Research be formulated and specifically that a systems approach be used in this formulation. It was envisaged that this approach would result in broader, more sustainable strategies for development improvements.

A subsequent study, also supported by ACARP, outlined four different environments that characterise most of the operating Australian longwall mines. Within each environment current roadway development parameters and systems were identified and described. Future targeted performance expectations were also identified.

The key part of the study was its identification of current systems barriers to these targets being achieved (and associated research areas).

This project, "Co-ordination of Roadway Development Strategy"was to continue the initiative to its next stage and develop an agreed industry strategy as suggested in the project title.


This project has developed an agreed industry strategic plan for the improvement of roadway development rates for underground coal mines. It has achieved this through a series of operator meetings where key development issues were discussed, by examining a variety of American practices and via two workshops attended by a broad representation of coal industry personnel.

The plan calls for the introduction of a 'systems approach' to minesites assisted by strategies based on the following areas:

  • information
  • technology implementation
  • face downtime/uptime
  • project management
  • parallel operations
  • communications and improved awareness of a systems approach
  • automation

The industry representatives at the workshops concluded that:

It is possible to double existing roadway development rates within the next five years, based on existing systems.

A systems approach to the problem is mandatory if we wish to achieve this goal.

The key to success will be to focus on the interactions of the system and not the component parts, and that the human element of these interactions is pivotal.

The technology available today makes doubling roadway development rates feasible, although the application of technology and how it is implemented can be significantly improved.

The implementation mechanism is to introduce a systems approach into a small number of 'Champion Mines' initially concentrating on the strategies of information, uptime/downtime and project management. These mines will report back to an industry forum in early 1998.

Although envisaged as a five year plan, this approach will allow a stepwise implementation and will keep industry in touch with progress.

The implementation of the strategies is being addressed in the current ACARP projectC6037 - Implementation of Roadway Development Strategy.


The aim of the project was to facilitate a concentrated industry effort to improve roadway development rates to support current and future longwall extraction technology. The objectives included in the original submission were:

  • to encourage the improved understanding and application of a systems approach to improvements in roadway development
  • to liaise with research and manufacturing groups to assist in setting directions for medium and long term machinery and technology development
  • to improve communication opportunities for operators, researchers, and manufacturers to discuss both specific and general roadway development needs and improvements
  • to encourage the transfer of research results to actual performance and the transfer of applicable practices between the sites both within Australia and from overseas

It was agreed at the start up meeting that the way to achieve the above objectives was to formulate an informed strategic plan that would be signed off by a broad representation from industry including operators, corporate representatives, manufacturers, maintenance providers, research and high technology providers.

The development of the strategic plan would be assisted by a series of operator meetings in key areas and an investigation of the apparently superior American performance levels.

Strategic plan

The outcome of the final workshop was a series of seven strategies and implementation mechanisms. The strategies were then prioritised and it was recommended to introduce a systems approach into a small number of 'Champion Mines' initially concentrating on the strategies of information, uptime/downtime and project management.

These mines would then report back to an industry forum in early 1998. Although envisaged as a five year plan, the attitude was to take one step at a time and to keep industry in touch with progress. The workshop concluded that there was a need to set automation priorities for roadway development as automation was a 5-10 year process as evidenced by the example of roof support.



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