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Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/600

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581
COAL

the pressure being reduced to that of the external atmosphere when it is desired to open the upper door, and increased to that of the working space below when it is intended to communicate with the sinkers, or to raise the stuff broken in the bottom. This method has been adopted in various sinkings on the continent of Europe.

The third method of sinking through water-bearing strata is that of boring, adopted by Messrs Kind & Chaudron in Belgium and Germany. For this purpose a horizontal bar armed with vertical cutting chisels is used, which cuts out Shaft boring.the whole section of the shaft simultaneously. In the first instance, a smaller cutting frame is used, boring a hole from 3 to 5 ft. in diameter, which is kept some 50 or 60 ft. in advance, so as to receive the detritus, which is removed by a shell pump of large size. The large trepan or cutter weighs about 16 tons, and cuts a hole of from 9 to 15 ft. in diameter. The water-tight lining may be either a wrought iron tube, which is pressed down by jack screws as the borehole advances, or cast iron tubbing put together in short complete rings, in contradistinction to the old plan of building them up of segments. The tubbing, which is considerably less in diameter than the borehole, is suspended by rods from the surface until a bed suitable for a foundation is reached, upon which a sliding length of tube, known as the moss box, bearing a shoulder, which is filled with dried moss, is placed. The whole weight of the tubbing is made to bear on the moss, which squeezes outwards, forming a completely water-tight joint. The interval between the back of the tubbing and the sides of the borehole is then filled up with concrete, which on setting fixes the tubbing firmly in position. With increase in depth, however, the thickness and weight of the cast iron tubbing in a large shaft become almost unmanageable; in one instance, at a depth of 1215 ft., the bottom rings in a shaft 14½ ft. in diameter are about 4 in. thick, which is about the limit for sound castings. It has therefore been proposed, for greater depths, to put four columns of tubbings of smaller diameters, 8½ and 5½ ft., in the shaft, and fill up the remainder of the boring with concrete, so that with thinner and lighter castings a greater depth may be reached. This, however, has not as yet been tried. Another extremely useful method of sinking through water-bearing ground, introduced by Messrs A. & H. T. Poetsch in 1883, and originally applied to shafts passing through quicksands above brown coal seams, has been applied with advantage in opening new pits through the secondary and tertiary strata above the coal measures in the north of France and Belgium, some of the most successful examples being those at Lens, Anzin and Vicq, in the north of France basin. In this system the soft ground or fissured water-bearing rock is rendered temporarily solid by freezing the contained water within a surface a few feet larger in diameter than the size of the finished shaft, so that the ground may be broken either by hand tools or blasting in the same manner as hard rock. The miners are protected by the frozen wall, which may be 4 or 5 ft. thick. The freezing is effected by circulating brine (calcium chloride solution) cooled to 5° F. through a series of vertical pipes closed at the bottom, contained in boreholes arranged at equal distances apart around the space to be frozen, and carried down to a short distance below the bottom of the ground to be secured. The chilled brine enters through a central tube of small diameter, passes to the bottom of the outer one and rises through the latter to the surface, each system of tubes being connected above by a ring main with the circulating pumps. The brine is cooled in a tank filled with spiral pipes, in which anhydrous ammonia, previously liquefied by compression, is vaporized in vacuo at the atmospheric temperature by the sensible heat of the return-current of brine, whose temperature has been slightly raised in its passage through the circulating tubes. When hard ground is reached, a seat is formed for the cast iron tubbing, which is built up in the usual way and concreted at the back, a small quantity of caustic soda being sometimes used in mixing the concrete to prevent freezing. In an application of this method at Vicq, two shafts of 12 and 16.4 ft. diameter, in a covering of cretaceous strata, were frozen to a depth of 300 ft. in fifty days, the actual sinking and lining operations requiring ninety days more. The freezing machines were kept at work for 200 days, and 2191 tons of coal were consumed in supplying steam for the compressors and circulating pumps.

The introduction of these special methods has considerably simplified the problem of sinking through water-bearing strata. Some of the earlier sinkings of this kind, when pumps had to be depended on for keeping down the water, were conducted at great cost, as, for instance, at South Hetton, and more recently Ryhope, near Sunderland, through the magnesian limestone of Durham.

The size and form of colliery shafts vary in different districts. In the United States and Scotland rectangular pits secured by timber framings are still common, but the tendency is now generally to make them round, 20 ft. being about Size of shafts. the largest diameter employed. In the Midland counties, from 7 to 9 ft. is a very common size, but larger dimensions are adopted where a large production is required. Since the accident at Hartley colliery in 1862, caused by the breaking of the pumping-engine beam, which fell into the shaft and blocked it up, whereby the whole of the men then at work in the mine were starved to death, it has been made compulsory upon mine-owners in the United Kingdom to have two pits for each working, in place of the single one divided by walls or brattices which was formerly thought sufficient. The use of two independent connexions—whether separate pits or sections of the same pit, between the surface and the workings—is necessary for the service of the ventilation, fresh air from the surface being carried down one, known as the “downcast,” while the foul or return air of the mine rises through the other or “upcast” pit back to the surface. In a heavily-watered mine it is often necessary to establish a special engine-pit, with pumps permanently fixed, or a division of one of the pits may be devoted to this purpose. The pumps, placed close to the point where the water accumulates, may be worked by an engine on the surface by means of heavy reciprocating rods which pass down the shaft, or by underground motors driven by steam, compressed air or electricity.

Where the water does not accumulate very rapidly it is a common practice to allow it to collect in a pit or sump below the working bottom of the shaft, and to draw it off in a water tub or “hoppet” by the main engine, when the latter is not employed in raising coal.

The laying out of a colliery, after the coal has been won, by sinkings or levels, may be accomplished in various ways, according to the nature of the coal, its thickness and dip, and the extent of ground to be worked. In the South Staffordshire and Laying out workings.other Midland coalfields, where only shallow pits are required, and the coals are thick, a pair of pits may be sunk for a very few acres, while in the North of England, on the other hand, where sinking is expensive, an area of some thousands of acres may be commanded from the same number of pits. In the latter case, which represents the most approved practice, the sinking is usually placed about the centre of the ground, so that the workings may radiate in every direction from the pit bottom, with the view of employing the greatest number of hands to advantage. Where a large area cannot be commanded, it is best to sink to the lowest point of the field for the convenience of drawing the coal and water which become level-free in regard to the pit. Where properties are much divided, it is always necessary to maintain a thick barrier of unwrought coal between the boundary of the mine and the neighbouring workings, especially if the latter are to the dip. If a prominent line of fault crosses the area it may usually be a convenient division of the fields into sections or districts. The first process in laying out the workings consists in driving a gallery on the level along the course of the coal seam, which is known as a “dip head level,” and a lower parallel one, in which the water collects, known as a “lodgment level.” Galleries driven at right angles to these are known as a “dip” or “rise headings,” according to their position above or below the pit bottom. In Staffordshire the main levels are also known as