Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Pitt students have been busy investigating discharges from coal mine pools, examining the impacts of longwall subsidence, and understanding underground coal mine ground control. NOTE: Ben Dillie of the PA DEP pointing to an installed geo-fabric installation above a longwall panel at the Enlow Fork mine and Brian Pividori of Rosebud discusses ground support requirements at the Brush Valley Slope, June 2013.

Three research projects have been funded in the mining engineering program:

  • The Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act of 1966 and its subsequent 1994 amendment, commonly called Act 54, require the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, or PA DEP, to produce an assessment of the surface impacts of underground bituminous coal mining in Pennsylvania every five years.  The University of Pittsburgh was asked by the PA DEP to assess underground bituminous coal mining surface impacts in two separate contracts valuing over $900,000.  The mining engineering program has a major role in these research projects shared with the Biology and Geology Departments at Pitt.  The first contract was completed in 2010 and published in 2011.  The second contract is on-going.  The mining engineering program has focused on recording mining trends and evaluating subsidence impacts, including effects on structures, water supplies, and land.  This project will end in August of 2014.  Graduate students working on this project include Michael Keener and Jessica Saleh.  Undergraduates researchers include Gabriel Frank, Justin Coughlin, and Alex Semidei.  
  • The Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Sciences (ARIES) is a consortium of major research universities formed to address the environmental impacts of the discovery, development, production, and use of energy resources in Appalachia.  ARIES is under the direction of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech.  The University of Pittsburgh is a sub-contractor to Virginia Tech with the goal of developing the next-generation eco-friendly mining.  Several projects have been funded since 2011 for a total of approximately $180,000.  The current project is part of the ARIES Water Impacts to Underground Coal Mining and is a task entitled “Barrier Pillar and Water Management.”  The project is examining the factors influencing the design of barriers and the control of mine-pool discharge from coal mines. The project goals include:
    • investigate the factors affecting water transmission characteristics of barriers,  both coal (as in down-dip) and strata (as in sedimentary rock layers between the mine-pool and a nearby surface stream),
    • where possible, characterize the extent and quality of mine-pools,
    • summarize case-study reports in a series of formal presentations and publications, and
    • produce guidelines for use in the design of hydraulic barriers to control mine-pool discharges.