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Coal Mining: Titan Machines to Move Mountains

Technological advances in U.S. coal mining make the industry more streamlined with the biggest machines man ever created.

Coal mining in the United States has a deep history, reaching back as far as 1850, when it surpassed wood as the preferred fuel in cities. Bituminous coal, lignite and anthracite, and graphite are the types most well known and used daily. Their wide range of use includes energy generation, steel making, refractories, batteries and lubricants. The industry itself has had an economic and culturally dominating presence as well, oftentimes embedding itself into the identity and traditions of the regions where coal is found; regions like the Allegheny and the Appalachian Mountains in the Northeast U.S.

Traditionally, these regions as well as the Midwest are where most of the United States’ coal was mined from; however, today, most coal is produced from western surface mines, especially in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The states with the largest recoverable coal reserves are Wyoming, West Virginia, Illinois and Montana. The largest single mine in the U.S., near Gillette, Wyoming, produces more coal than many other states. In 2009, it alone produced over 100 million tons and has projected upwards of 130 million tons in 2012, which is more than 23 other coal producing states including Pennsylvania—which has a well known history with coal.

More than 90% of all mined coal in the U.S. is used by the electrical power industry, which accounts for about half of all electricity production in the United States. That number has dropped considerably from what it was even as recently as the late 1990's as the U.S. continues to look for cleaner, alternative methods of energy production.

The history of the technology in the industry is as complex as the industry itself. Today, advances have made coal mining more productive than it has ever been. To keep up with competition and extract coal as efficiently as possible, modern miners must be highly skilled and well trained in the use of complex, state-of-the-art instruments and equipment. Many jobs in the industry require four-year university degrees, and computer knowledge has become greatly valued as most of the machines and equipment are now computerized where they were once mechanically operated.

Gone are the canaries and the fire lamps of old, in fact, underground shaft-mining is no longer the dominant mining type. The preferred method now is surface mining, which is a broad category that includes strip, open-pit and mountaintop removal mining. It is a method whereby the overlying soil and rock, called the overburden, is removed entirely to expose the mineral deposit beneath.

This method requires the heaviest machinery that man has ever crafted to harvest the coal. Giant earthmovers first remove the overburden and then colossal machines, such as dragline excavators or bucket wheel excavators, extract the coal. To move these mountains requires massive articulated haulers, such as the Bell Equipment B50D, which is capable of hauling upwards of 100,000 lbs.

In order to weigh such titan equipment and their mammoth payloads, vehicle scales had to be manufactured on an entirely new and larger level. Cardinal Scale’s YUKON® Off-Road Truck Scales are designed and built specifically for the mining industry. They feature NTEP legal-for-trade certification for authorized commercial weighing work. Each YUKON® scale deck features an immense steel beam structure for the superior strength necessary to hold up tens of thousands of pounds. Extra-thick, reinforced steel deck plates as wide as 16 feet accommodate the very biggest models of the off-road haulers, such as the Volvo CE, Terex and Caterpillar. Combined with Cardinal’s state-of-the-art compression-type, stainless steel load cells, the YUKON® boasts a massive 150 ton capacity and is exceptionally well suited to the delicate process of weighing these juggernauts down to micro amounts accurately.

At the forefront of scale technology in an industry where heavy-duty is the standard and not just an option, and when measurements must be accurate in spite of the massive amounts being weighed, Cardinal’s YUKON® Off-Road Truck Scales are the ideal choice.

For more info:

Cardinal Scale Mfg. Co. • Ph. (800) 441-4237 • • 203 East Daugherty St., Webb City, MO 64870

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