Degree Name

Master of Engineering (Hons.)


Department of Civil and Mining Engineering


The Coal Mining Industry has evolved from the days of Land mining into a highly mechanised process becoming Australia's largest export industry and the major source of fuel in the generation of power required for both industrial and domestic use.

As in all commodity markets the Coal Mining Industry will only remain viable whilst the product can be competitive with alternate fuel sources such as Hydro-Electric, Solar and Nuclear Power. In order to meet the above objective it is important to maintain products superior in quality or cheaper to other sources such as Asia, South Africa, Europe and North America.

Over the last two decades highly productive longwall units have been developed to provide bulk tonnes from operations, however, other important support services have largely been ignored. Exploration techniques required to understand the resource prior to mining are inadequate. Safety performance is not competitive with other industries. Development and auxiliary equipment are largely incapable of providing timely exposure of coal and support to longwall equipment. Marketing and transport infrastructure is costly. Maintenance is generally carried out to meet legislative requirements. Industrial relations and human resources management issues have often been referred to independent arbitrators for settlement.

This thesis systematically addresses the major components involved in improving the productivity and viability of the underground coal mining industry. Whilst each individual component may have an incremental effect on the industry, but collectively they may have a major effect on competitiveness.

Chapter 1 summarises the current exploration techniques available to understand a resource and predict mining conditions prior to commitment to major expenditure. It also describes some of the impediments to running areas for legislative reasons.

Chapter 2 describes the marketing and transportation opportunities available within the mining operation.

Chapter 3 demonstrates the cost to the industry of poor safety performance and the opportunities for cost saving where industry attempts to eliminate disabling injuries.

Chapter 4 analyses the reasons for industrial disruption in the Mining Industry and the cost of this industrial disruption both directly and because of poor work performance.

Chapter 5 describes mainly the development machinery presently available to the industry and that machinery being introduced in order to gain the "quantum leap" in development performance, thus, leading to greater utilisation of longwall equipment.

Chapter 6 describes changing philosophy to maintain mme machinery by better condition monitoring techniques whilst sharing improvements with equipment suppliers.

Chapter 7 details conclusions and recommends further research.

In order to achieve the optimum improvement in productivity and viability of underground coal mining in Australia, this thesis demonstrates the interdependencies of exploration, marketing, safety, human resources, machinery and maintenance.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.