Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Increasing interest in deep mining

The Scotsman ran an interesting story this week about deep coal mining:

Coal chief calls for return to deep mining to fuel power-station pledge
Published Date: 02 February 2009

By Erikka Askeland and Jane Bradley

The head of the UK's largest coal producer has said that a return to deep mining north of the Border is essential if the Scottish Government is to follow through on its commitment to coal-fired power stations. Don Nicolson, the new chief executive of the Scottish Resources Group, which owns several firms, including Scottish Coal, told The Scotsman that there are "perhaps billions of tonnes" of coal in Scotland that could not be accessed by surface mining. He said: "There are millions of tonnes, perhaps billions of tonnes of coal in Scotland. A small fraction you can get at through surface mining. If coal was to become part of our long-term future, which we think it will, then you need to go deep. That is where the bulk of the coal reserves are."

It is interesting to note that deep mining is coming back onto the agenda. Unfortunately, re-establishing deep mining in areas that have abandoned workings is far from simple. For example, the most accessible locations have probably already been mined out; accidentally mining into abandoned workings is problematic; and managing groundwater can be a real challenge. Of course there is also a substantial issue with carbon dioxide emissions from the coal, such that it is likely that carbon capture and storage will be required. All of these issues require substantial amounts of research and probably the development of new technologies.