Robotic mapping of abandoned mines in proximity to impoundment dams
Conversation @CMU RI 030203
Impoundment dams are a common means to dewater and contain byproducts from coal cleaning processes. Impoundments are extensive dams that can be sited over or nearby old workings, including some that may be unknown. The threat is that an impoundment could breach into an old mine, and that the old mine could deliver a massive flood of water and slurry to outflows distant from the impoundment. Since old maps may be inaccurate, incomplete or nonexistent, it is important to determine the exact extent and location of old mines to preclude breaching of impoundments. Geotechnical techniques are not reliable for such accurate mapping, and it is not possible to send humans into abandoned mines to confirm old surveys.
The particular regions of interest are often the extremities of old workings that are proximate to impoundments, hence there is value in the capability of mapping terminal regions more than the entire mine layout. Terminal regions may be a few entries (a few hundred feet) wide and a few crosscuts (a few hundred feet) long.
Robotic mapping holds the prospect to accurately and reliably map the terminations of abandoned mines proximate to impoundments. We envision mobile robots that navigate dry mines and borehole-deployed submarines to explore submerged mines.
The relevance of need, the technical advantages of robotic mappers and the weakness of competing approaches combine to motivate the development of robotic explorers to investigate and map old mines and flow conditions in proximity to impoundment dams.