Kentucky Geological Survey Report of Investigations


The effects of longwall coal mining on hydrology in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field are being investigated. The study area is in the Edd Fork watershed in southern Leslie County, over Shamrock Coal Company's Beech Fork Mine. Longwall panels approximately 700 ft wide are separated by three-entry gateways that are approximately 200 ft wide. The mine is operated in the Fire Clay (Hazard No. 4) coal; overburden thickness ranges from 300 to 800 ft. Mining began in panel 1 in September 1991 and concluded with panel 8 in September 1994. Long-term monitoring consisting of a network of piezometers and time-domain reflectometry (TDR) cables previously installed over panel 7, in conjunction with a continuously recording rain gage and flume, is continuing after the completion of mining.

Mining in panel 5 affected water levels in three of 24 piezometers installed over panel 7; the level went down in one piezometer and rose in two. Mining in panel 6 affected 16 of 24 piezometers; the level went down in 11 piezometers and rose in five. Mining in panel 7 affected water levels in 20 of 24 piezometers. Different water-level responses were recorded as the mine approached and passed by the instrumental sites. Thirteen piezometers failed as a result of undermining. These piezometers penetrated the zone of deep fracturing that extends upward approximately 450 ft (or 60 times greater than the mined thickness) above the mine. Only one piezometer showed a net increase in water level as a result of mining.

Mining-induced surface fractures, observed along roads in the watershed, were generally parallel to the slope of the land surface or mining direction and probably contributed to ground-water recharge. The surface stream was unaffected until it was undermined by panel 8; then the stream went dry.

TDR cables in the Hazard coal zone were deformed as mining passed by on the adjacent panel. Water levels in piezometers in the Hazard coal zone declined at the same time. TDR cables broke completely twice. The deepest complete break was in the Hazard coal zone and occurred when the active mine face was approaching, but still approximately 1,000 ft away from, the affected cable in panel 7. This corresponds to an angle of influence of 60 to 70°. Rock broke in the shallow subsurface (less than 50 ft deep) when the cable was directly undermined.

Water-level responses in piezometers adjacent to mining are related to the complex flow system, rather than a defined angle of hydrologic influence. Coal beds and other conductive strata transmit water-level responses as far away as 1,450 ft, whereas nonconductive strata transmit little water-level change at closer distances. The water-level responses observed in this study support existing subsidence models. Piezometers in the zone of intensive fracturing failed as a result of rock breakage. An aquiclude zone developed in the ridge. The integrity of strata and piezometers was generally maintained. The most variable effects were observed in the zone of surface fracturing, within 50 ft of the surface.

Publication Date



Series XII

Report Number

Report Investigations 4

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Notes/Citation Information

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