Environmental Geology

Impact of karst water on coal mining in North China

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Courtesy of Environmental Geology

Coalfields in North China encompass more than ten Provinces. They contain six to seven coal seams in the Permo-Carboniferous strata. The lower three seams account for 37% of the total reserves and are threatened with intrusion of karst water from the underlying Ordovician limestone. Hundreds of water inrush incidences have occurred, in which a large amount of water suddenly flows into tunnels or working faces under high potentiometric pressure. Over 50 mines have been flooded over the last 30 years. Large-scale dewatering or depressurizing of the karst aquifer was considered essential to avoid water inrushes and keep the mines safely operational. This practice, however, has caused sinkholes, dry springs, water supply shortage, and groundwater contamination in the surrounding areas. One alternative water control measure is to make full use of the rock layer between the coal seam and the karst aquifer as a protective barrier to prevent or constrain water flow from the underlying aquifer into the mines. Grouting is effective when the hydrogeological conditions are favorable to this technique. Proper design of the grouting program and experience of the contractor are also important for a successful application.

Keywords: Coal mining - Karst water - Water inrush - Dewatering - Grouting - North China

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