Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Mining Engineering

Committee Chair

Vladislav Kecojevic.


The broad objective of this research was to improve current mining practices and reduce negative environmental impact of surface coal mining in West Virginia (WV). The specific objectives were to (i) build the production and cost models to determine if conventional surface mining unit operations such as drilling, blasting, digging, loading, and crushing can be replaced with one mining machine called a surface miner (SM), (ii) apply the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to help select the optimal mining method, and (iii) determine the extent of which the SM would benefit surface coal mining in WV, particularly by reducing some of the negative environmental impacts associated with current extraction practices.;The entire production and cost models were developed in MS Excel. The design and the procedures used for achieving the objectives involved six interrelated modules. Module #1 includes rock properties of sandstone, shale, which are the predominant overburden and interburden materials in WV, and sub-bituminous coal. Module #2 considers drilling and blasting operations. Module #3 includes digging and loading of overburden material. It specifically addresses mining equipment such as electric and hydraulic shovels and front-end wheel loaders. Interburden material also includes sandstone and shale, and the two unit operations involved are ripping and pushing by bulldozers and loading by hydraulic backhoe shovel. Module #4 covers coal extraction by hydraulic backhoe shovel and the crushing operation. Module #5 focuses on the SM, while Module #6 is used to conduct comparative analyses among all mining unit operations for overburden, interburden, and coal. The resulting production rates, ownership, and operating costs were also presented. The analytical hierarchy process (AHP) was used to help select the optimal mining method based on both qualitative and quantitative factors.;Based on the results of this research, application of SM would benefit coal extraction in surface mining operations in WV. The estimated cost of coal extraction is lower than with conventional mining methods, and the machine is able to work selectively with high separation accuracy. Thin seams of coal and overburden can be mined separately, thus preventing dilution with interburden material. Rising operating costs for the SM become an issue as the quantity of material being extracted increases and higher values of unconfined compressive strength are encountered. Cutting tools on the drum wear out faster and require more changes and, at a certain point, the SM becomes unfeasible because of the time and cost involved in changing cutting tools. A significant advantage of SM, where applicable, is the elimination of the negative environmental impacts associated with blasting.