One of the most pervasive diseases in the mining industry is noise-induced hearing loss. The exposure of miners to noise levels above the permissible exposure level results in hearing loss in approximately 80% of coal miners by retirement age. In this context, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting research to develop noise controls for longwall mining systems, which are used to extract half of the national underground coal production.
From field measurements, previous research determined that the dominant sound-radiating components at the shearer of a longwall system are the two cutting drums used to remove coal. Due to the dimensions and complexity of longwall mining systems, the NIOSH project developed a validated finite element model of the cutting drum to use in predicting the sound radiated by the drum due to the excitation forces experienced in underground operations. This same model will be used to develop engineering noise controls for the drum. The excitation forces arise from the interaction of the cutting bits and the coal and are transmitted to the cutting drum through the bit holders. Due to the adverse conditions at the face, and a lack of instrumentation approved for underground use, the operational coal cutting forces have not been assessed before. To this end, NIOSH, in collaboration with Michigan Technological University, developed a self-contained, intrinsically safe instrumented bit to measure these forces.
This paper describes the development of the instrumented bit and the measuring of operational coal cutting forces at three working coal mines. The measurements revealed that the forces have a flat spectrum, representative of the impact nature of these forces, up to around 100 Hz. Above this cutoff frequency, the force magnitude decreases at a rate proportional to the inverse of frequency squared.