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Assuring Safe and Sustainable Underground Longwall Mining
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How longwall automation benefits longwall mine productivity, improved working conditions for personnel and enhanced environmental outcomes.

Longwall Mining Solutions

Longwall mining is the most important method of underground coal mining. It has been used worldwide in conventional and mechanized ways for many years. The types of longwall mining machines used today have been around since the early 1970s, when the first shield supports were introduced. Among the underground mining methods, the longwall method has provided the highest productivity, environmental acceptability, and safety.

Ever-higher requirements from mine operators have led to numerous significant developments in longwall mining technology over the past decades. Mining companies are looking for higher productivity, longer life, full system solutions and increased safety and sustainability.

HBT repeatedly invented state-of-the-art solutions to meet those challenging demands with the overall goal of minimizing operating costs and improve safety and sustainability. HBT’s commitment to environmental responsibility translates directly into cost savings for the customer’s longwall mining operations.

HBT tailored the longwall automation solutions to the unique needs of underground mining environments. Camera systems, RFID tags and other safety tools monitor and track workers and equipment as they move around underground. And remote-control, semi-autonomous and autonomous longwall systems allow operators to work from safe, ergonomic workstations out of harm’s way—while also improving the productivity of the system.

At all levels, automation helps make operations more predictable and consistent, while also keeping as many people as possible out of hazardous areas. The result is enhanced safety, improved production, and increased efficiency.


In addition to longwall system automation driving production and mechanical availability increases, HBT shearer automation with underground cameras and equipment health monitoring reduces working time for operators near the cutting machine and at the face in general. Today, it is possible to run a shearer with only one operator instead of two, which means that no operator must leave the fresh air end of the shearer. Additionally, the operator can leave the machine to itself in wide areas of the face. People spend less time in hazardous areas and are less exposed to dust and noise. In addition, the newly developed HBT Quad Lighting System can pinpoint where a problem is cropping up and at which roof support.


Keeping operators safe and out of harm’s way is a top priority for HBT. Controlling potentially hazardous working conditions such as automatically moving shields helps you achieve this goal. The HBT Personnel Proximity Detection (PPD) system protects operators from these hazards to allow continuous, safe operation of HBTlongwall systems.

This represents a quantum leap in safety for HBT longwall systems. Common safety procedures, such as lock-out, tag-out, in conjunction with the detection technologies in the HBT PPD system, provide multiple, redundant layers of safety for miners. It does not replace manual lock-out of roof supports. It adds another means of keeping workers safe underground by automatically ceasing movement of shields on both sides of the detected, tagged employee.


Customers reduce environmental waste and lower operating costs on the EL3000 shearer with HBT rebuild and remanufacturing programs. They benefit from a 40-70% cost savings by using reused or remanufactured parts such as motors, drives, and gearboxes. Remanufactured parts meet our demanding quality standards, are reliable, and have the same warranty as new parts. Diagnostic systems and preventative maintenance programs help keep machines operating at optimal efficiency. This results in less impact on the environment and lower operating costs for our customers.


Another interesting feature that HBT offers is a highly efficient dust suppression concept for Cat longwall mining systems. On-board water spray systems for shearers and roof supports include a moving “water curtain.” High-pressure water is sprayed through nozzles mounted in the shearer running track. The number of nozzles can be set to a programmable number of shields. The system is activated and controlled by the extremely reliable and very flexible HBT PMC-R roof support control system. The spray zone moves with the mining machine back and forth through the longwall and is considerably more effective than the standard dust-control systems built into shearers. This system has helped many mines around the world to greatly reduce dust and to stay well within the respective approved limits.

Advanced automation features not only lead to greater safety and efficiency, but also to one of the most sustainable extraction methods for underground coal production every day – longwall mining.