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The objective of this study is to develop a method to aid in the selection of an overburdern handling system in surface coal mining. The selection procedure consists of three major parts. The first part is aimed at rating the equipment's potential to perform the environmental protection related activities and then integrating this rating into the system selection process. The second part is an engineering analysis of the design of pit layouts and the operation of alternative overburden handling systems. The third part consists of a cost and sensitivity analysis of alternative systems on different mining situations. Specifically, the work includes: (1) a Delphi study to determine the magnitude of the environmental impacts and to quantify the relationship between mining practices and environmental remedies, (2) a scoring model to set up an index of the relative capability of equipment to do the environmental protection related jobs, (3) an evaluation of the pit design and overburden handling systems based on parameters which affect the system productivity and the mining environment, (4) a computer program to generalize the engineering analysis of overburden handling operations, and (5) case studies with cost and sensitivity analysis under various mining conditions. Seven stripping techniques and seventeen combinations of pit layouts and overburden handling systems are analyzed in this study. An approach using a Markov-chain, state-transition diagram technique is presented to delineate the stochastic behavior of the availability of overburden handling equipment and systems.