Extracting the Science: A Century of Mining Research. Brune JF, ed., Littleton, CO: Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, 2010 Jan; :177-188
Ground falls claimed the lives of 50,000 US coal miners during the 20th century, more than all other types of underground accidents put together. While seldom garnering headlines, ground control research has been an important focus area for the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) (and now the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)). These organizations have played a key role many central developments, including: 1. The transition from wood posts to roof bolts; 2. The requirement that every mine employ a Roof Control Plan; 3. The development of shield supports for longwalls; 4. The application of empirical pillar design methods; 5. The development of improved standing support systems. These and other successful interventions required that the technology, economics, and mining culture all intersect. The paper concludes with a discussion of some current safety technologies that represent the next steps forward for ground control.