1. surface or 'opencast' mining
2. underground or 'deep' mining
The choice of mining method is largely determined by the geology of the coal deposit. Underground mining currently accounts for a bigger share of world coal production than opencast; although in several important coal producing countries surface mining is more common. For example, surface mining accounts for around 80% of production in Australia; while in the USA it is used for about 67% of production.
Here in Indonesia we use Surface mining - also known as opencast or opencut mining - is only economic when the coal seam is near the surface. This method recovers a higher proportion of the coal deposit than underground mining as all coal seams are exploited - 90% or more of the coal can be recovered.
The overburden of soil and rock is first broken up by explosives; it is then removed by draglines or by shovel and truck. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is drilled, fractured and systematically mined in strips. The coal is then loaded on to large trucks or conveyors for transport to either the coal preparation plant or direct to where it will be used. Different types of coal have different uses. Steam coal - also known as thermal coal - is mainly used in power generation. Coking coal - also known as metallurgical coal - is mainly used in steel production. The biggest market for coal is Asia, which currently accounts for over 65% of global coal consumption; although China is responsible for a significant proportion of this. Many countries do not have natural energy resources sufficient to cover their energy needs, and therefore need to import energy to help meet their requirements. Japan, Taiwan and Korea, for example, import significant quantities of steam coal for electricity generation and coking coal for steel production.
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