During longwall mining in the Bowen Basin, open tension cracks formed by overburden subsidence occur to a height of about 175 m above the mining horizon. Within this zone, water in aquifers or inundated workings will flow into the mine.
At the Oaky Creek mines Aquila seam, open cut pits containing pit water overlie German Creek seam longwall panels at a height of about 105 m. The highly saline water is classified as contaminated and cannot be discharged off-site. Because alternative water storage facilities were not available, innovative water management solutions were needed to allow longwall mining to proceed without underground flooding.
Computer modelling and underground inflow measurements have been completed to accurately determine inflow rates into longwall mines from overlying water sources at increasing overburden heights. Research work has also included determining cost-effective blanket treatment of final voids and reshaping spoil piles to minimise downward seepage.
Ponded water overlying the Aquila low, Grasstree south and A6 pits required remedial works prior to longwall undermining to prevent flooding. In the Aquila low pit it was necessary to partition the pit and remove water overlying longwall 32. Two in-pit bridges were constructed by dozing and track compacting low wall spoil. The final void above the longwall panel was kept dry during undermining. Maximum recorded underground inflow rate was 30.0 L/s.
The Grasstree south pit final void, part of the ramp and much of the spoil piles were inundated prior to undermining of 308 panel. A bridge and blanket were required to prevent ponding above the longwall. Maximum recorded inflow during undermining was 23.2 L/s.
The pit A6 south final void, which contained dumped, saturated rejects and inundated highwall mining entries was undermined by longwall 36 at the Oaky No 1 underground mine. Because mapping of highwall entries was not available, the maximum calculated inflow rate of 73.0 L/s was based on all design entries being fully inundated. The actual inflow rate during longwall mining ranged up to 20.0 L/s.
Water management improvements that have been implemented include greater use of contaminated pit water to wash coal, use of evaporation fans, and installation of a 6 ML/day reverse osmosis plant for water purification.
Klenowski, G and Winter, S, 2017. Inflows into longwall mines from inundated overlying workings, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Underground Operators’ Conference 2017, pp 183–190 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).