Continuous miners are excavation tools used in underground mining operations, commonly room and pillar and retreat mining techniques. They are functionally composed of:
- A cutting head, which is a rotating steel drum with carbide teeth, that is positioned on the end of a hydraulically-articulated arm. The cutting head is application-specific and it scrapes and chips away at the mine seam.
- A loading shovel to collect coal, soft minerals, ore, and hard rock which have been excavated by the cutting head and guided into the disharge boom; the extracted aggregate is discharged at the rear of the continuous miner by a conveyor system. These gathering systems may further breakdown the material.
- Caterpillar tracks to provide the miner with robust locomotion.
Continous miners are either remotely controlled by an operator or are robotically monitored via a computer. Performing a 'wet cut', where the cutting head and the aggregate is misted by water, reduces dust, noise, and ignition risk while improving the cutting head's service life. Coolant systems can also be used to keep onboard components from overheating. A high-capacity electric motor transmits power to the cutter, gathering, traction, and hydraulic systems. Other available functions include ventilation equipment, scrubbers, and methane monitoring.
Video credit: Joy Mining Machinery via YouTube