Man And Machines

March 21, 2011
There are the men of Cobalt Coal, and then there are the machines of Cobalt Coal. Mining is a tough job, and a set of hands and a pick axe will not do the job alone. To ensure the safety of not just the Cobalt crew, but miners across the country, mining companies use some of the world’s strongest machinery to help them get the job done. When Coal premieres on Spike on Wednesday, March 30 at 10PM/9c you’ll see these machines put to the test.


Producing more than five tons of coal in a minute, the continuous miner accounts for about 45% of underground coal production. The machine itself has a large rotating steel drum equipped with tungsten carbide teeth that scrape coal from the wall seams. It operates using a “room and pillar” system, where the mine is divided into a series of 20- to 30-foot “rooms” cut into the coal bed.


Low to the ground, and fun to drive, shuttle cars are also used in room-and-pillar coal mining systems. As a mainstay of the industry, these haul vehicles are used to remove the cut material so as to enhance the performance of the continuous miner and maximize the productivity of the overall section. Shuttle cars can also be operated by remote control, allowing for safer cuts as an unmanned vehicle can travel under an unsupported roof.


A roof bolter is a miner-driven rig that is used to install rock bolts in mines and tunnels helping secure ceilings in underground mines. It’s an extremely dangerous application and accounts for nearly half of all underground mining injuries. Luckily, modern day mining is much more automated, and allows the operator not to be as exposed to falling rock as the roof bolts are installed. This very important piece of machinery is occasionally used via remote control where automated bolters can typically double the productive capacity by eliminating disruptions in the mine production cycle.


Photo: Photo Disc/Getty Images

Occasionally used in underground mining, but also used in surface mining, graders are construction machines with a long blade used to create a flat surface. With three sets of axles and the engine and cab situated above the rear-most set, the sharp blade sits in front. As the vehicle moves forward it levels the ground with the grader, allowing for clearer access to the land for mining, or even fixing it when the mining is completed.


With its uncomplicated name, a scoop is used to pick-up loose coal from the mine floor after the mining process. This battery- or diesel-powered piece of haulage equipment is typically used as a utility vehicle within underground mines. There a wide variety of haul vehicles used within the mining trade, some as basic as your average dump truck, but a scoop is one of the most common.

These pieces of machinery, along with many others, are what coal miners use to get the job done. Without them both their productivity and their safety would be in jeopardy. Visit Coal at for more great insight to this vital American industry, and find us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest Coal updates and exclusive content before and after the premiere one-hour episode airing on Wednesday, March 30 at 10PM/9c. Keep digging.