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Earthmovers Unlimited Leads Mine Reclamation Project

Fri October 07, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A reclamation job involving two abandoned mine shafts is rapidly nearing completion in Pennsylvania, due to the efforts of Earthmovers Unlimited Inc. of Kylertown, Pa.

The project is being done for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Abandoned Mine Reclamation Division, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., office. Work began on Aug. 15 and is scheduled for completion in late October or early November 2011. The full dollar amount is $149,490, and one hundred percent of the project is self-performed by Earthmovers Unlimited.

According to John P. Niebauer, Jr., president and CEO of Earthmovers, the contract calls for the filling of two separate and distinct mine shafts that have been abandoned since mining practices changed, as is typical in Northeast Pennsylvania mining practices of this era.

The shafts were 790 ft. (240.7 m) deep, with one opening being 10 by 17 ft. (3 by 5.2 m), and the other opening 10 by 20.5 ft. (3 by 6.2 m).

“Over the years, the caps that were installed on these shafts have deteriorated and have fallen into the mineshaft itself, creating a severe hazard,” Niebauer said. “The water in the bottom of the mine pool was approximately 605 feet deep. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection put out strict specifications that no man-operated machinery could be within 60 feet of the edge of the mine opening. To complicate matters, material had to be dropped straight down into the shaft to prohibit any side loading of the top of the mine shafts for fear of the mine shaft collapsing.”

Niebauer noted that department specs called for the fill material to be no greater than 24 in. (61 cm) in diameter. Earthmovers chose to do the project with an Extec Megabit Crusher.

“The contract also prohibited the use of hi-reach excavators because the government wanted no side loading problems with the walls of the existing mine shaft,” Niebauer said. “Earthmovers employees very skillfully adapted our existing Extec Model C12 crusher to allow maximum flow of materials to the shaft in order to meet production schedule.”

To expedite filling operations, they chose to remove the grate restrictions in the crusher to allow all material smaller than the recommended size to flow directly on the belt. Material larger than 24 in. (61 cm) was crushed to size by the Extec Crusher and placed on a conveyor traveling 52 ft. (15.8 m) directly into the top of the mine opening.

The crusher was equipped with a remote control, which allowed Earthmovers to move the machine away from the mineshaft for servicing and fueling and then remotely send the machine into the restricted area.

“This resulted in a win-win situation for not only Earthmovers, but for the government’s strict specifications,” Niebauer said.

Material was removed from the designated borrow area by using a Komatsu PC650 excavator to load a John Deere 400C articulated rock truck to take the material to the mine site. Next, a PC400 Komatsu excavator was used to re-handle the material and feed the crusher, thus allowing Earthmovers to completely comply with the 60 ft. (18.2 m) restriction.

“At this time, it is estimated that 10,000 cubic yards of fill was used to fill both shafts in seven days,” Niebauer said. “Once the filling operations were complete, a 10-foot cap was placed over both shafts, seeded, mulched, and the entire area was then fenced to inhibit from entering the site. In addition to the mine shaft filling, an additional 67,000 cubic yards of material will be re-graded by the use of a Komatsu 475A-2 dozer on the site, and the entire site will be seeded, mulched, and trees planted.”

The job involves two shifts with approximately 10 employees total.

Earthmovers Unlimited was started by Niebauer in the early 1960s and has been engaged in mine reclamation activities for the past 40 years. The number of employees varies from season to season, but is generally between 50 and 100.

The company has completed hundreds of these types of jobs for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Office of Surface Mining and others. Jobs have ranged in scope from $100,000 to as high as $8 million, according to Niebauer.

“Earthmovers has also completed many commercial and industrial demolition projects,” Niebauer said. “These include the demolition of the Kelly Springfield Plant located in Cumberland, Md., the six-story Hendler Hotel in Johnstown, Pa., as well as thousands of smaller commercial and residential buildings.”

According to Niebauer, Earthmovers owns all of its own equipment and basically rents nothing. The company has a fleet of nine Komatsu 475A-3 and A-5 bulldozers, three Komatsu 575 super Dozers, and a full complement of smaller bulldozers. It has a complete complement of haul trucks ranging from 30 to 100-ton (27 to 90.7 t), as well as excavators and a 13.5 cu.-yd. (10.3 cu m) Hitachi shovel. Currently, the company operates approximately 50 tri-axle and tractor trailer units of various sizes and shapes, including a 13-axle heavy duty 65-ton (59 t) lowboy.

Niebauer noted that Earthmovers has many other ongoing projects throughout the state of Pennsylvania, one of which is a major reclamation site near Hazelton, Pa., on a 165-acre (66.7 ha) site. It involves the grading of approximately 1.35 million cu. yds. (1.03 million cu m), as well as various other rock and ditch excavations. All operations on this site as well as other sites in the state involve the self-performance of all operations, including seeding and mulching. CEG

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