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Auger Mining

Auger mining uses large-diameter drills mounted on mobile equipment to bore into a coal seam. Holes are horizontally drilled at regular intervals to depths of as much as 1,000 feet. As the cutting head of the auger bites into the coalface, the cut coal is carried out by the screw portion of the bit. Once the hole is mined to its required depth, the auger machine is moved a few feet and another hole is drilled. Auger mining is a relatively low cost method of coal mining and is practical in areas where the overburden (material covering the coal seam) is too thick to be removed economically or where the coal seam is too thin for underground mining.

Auger mining was introduced to the West Virginia coalfields in the 1940s. Today, auger mining continues to be used as a surface mining method in West Virginia, usually on contour surface mines where augers drill the last available coal from the highwall. A relatively recent offshoot of auger mining is the development of highwall miners. Also operating from a surface mine bench, these machines take a larger, deeper cut and use a cutting head similar to those on continuous miner machines.

Written by David J. Kessler


  1. Annual Report & Directory of Mines 1951. West Virginia Department of Mines. 1952.