Homepage Forums Economic Forums General thought on old coal mines.

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    AvatarDuke Leto

    One problem we’re going to have is that if this works, the US coal industry dies.

    So one of the things that I’ve been kicking around in my head is what to do with the coal miners and coal mines.

    Based on Herr Lerner’s essay on the future of agriculture, subterranean hydroponics jumped out as the obvious solution, since not only is there a lot of empty volume for extra biomass, no worries about energy for photons with the DPF, and a bit more labor usage, but there is also the possibility to cheaply seal off large old sections of mine for climate control and the production of citrus and tropical crops year round.

    An alternative and more interesting solution is aquaculture, the mass raising of ocean and freshwater fish, which are the most endangered (and most expensive) food resource. A bonus would be a semi-non-insignificant increase in plankton population. Kill 4 birds with one hole: Transform endangered jobs; cheaper, healthier meat for the people; take pressure off of vulnerable wild species; send some of the fossil carbon back where it came from.

    Anyone (Glenn) know anything on:

    The volume of operating subterranean mines?
    The volume of non-operating subterranean mines?
    Guesstimate of how much capital/energy/labor will need to go into hydroponics per unit of volume?



    Now that’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that we need!

    AvatarDuke Leto

    What would really be lovely is wine. If you could grow 3 vintages a year in a climate controlled underground vineyard you could take a huge chunk out of the cost of wine and thereby provide a healthier choice in alcohol to the masses.

    It would have to be called “Adam Smith’s Scottish Coal Label”. (To get this joke you have to be familiar with Smith’s seminal thought experiment on comparative advantage. Or maybe it was Scottish Oranges. Point is the DPF wipes out the climate comparative advantage.)

    AvatarJolly Roger

    Duke Leto wrote: One problem we’re going to have is that if this works, the US coal industry dies.

    Focus Fusion will not kill the coal industry, at least not entirely, and not immediately. The electric utilities have a lot of money invested in coal burning plants and will keep operating the existing ones until the cost of cleaning up their emissions gets too high, or they just get too old. As the coal plants are retired, they will be replaced with Focus Fusion.

    Coal has more uses than just fuel. It can be used in the manufacture of steel, plastics and maybe pharmaceuticals.

    Coal mines are dirty places. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there are a lot of heavy metals in coal mines. They may be inappropriate for any sites having to do with the food chain.

    Coal mines are dangerous places. It would be better to get the miners out of there as soon as possible.

    Most of the underground coal mines I have seen pictures of have low ceilings, too low for fruit trees. How about mushroom beds?

    It would be nice to shut down the strip mines in the western states, though, and return the land to a near-natural state.

    AvatarDuke Leto

    I disagree, I don’t think there’s time to putz around with a gradual rollout. Global warming has set the deadline for us. I think the DPF reactors have to be manufactured at a rate of at least 20,000 units per year and they have to put out energy at $10-20 per Megawatt hour concurrent with constantly rising Federal emissions taxes to FORCE the utilities to shut down the coal plants by raw economics. The CO2 emissions have got to be stopped before the polar meltdowns become irreversible.

    There are probably 20 abandoned subterranean mines for every 1 operational one, and I believe that if the walls are concreted up and laminated, basically a requirement for climate regulation anyway, the metals and coal dust won’t be an environmental problem.

    You’re right about the citrus trees, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of other crops that will benefit from a trebled growing season.


    If a DPF fusion world is possible and becomes so, there will be no use for coal in the long term other then to make plastics and composites, in the short term it would be needed to phasing out coal produce electricity and making oil to replace over-demand/under-production of oil. Global warming is a real concern but don’t forget Peak Oil which is likely going to hit harder and much faster then global warming.

    AvatarDuke Leto

    Oh, I haven’t forgotten Peak Oil. That’s why my other thread was on the feasibility of a scaled down version of the device to serve as the power plant of an electric car. Preferably one where both the device and electric motor could fit neatly into the volume where the combustion engine used to be in an existing car.


    Duke Leto wrote: Oh, I haven’t forgotten Peak Oil. That’s why my other thread was on the feasibility of a scaled down version of the device to serve as the power plant of an electric car. Preferably one where both the device and electric motor could fit neatly into the volume where the combustion engine used to be in an existing car.

    I doubt it, your going to need at least a meter of shielding around the reactor because of the hard x-rays, gamma rays and even small amounts of neutronicity, not to mention the length of the decelerator and mass of the giant capacitors. It will never be small enough to fit on a car, not with DPF fusion that is. Let just try to stay reasonable and assume that even if they pull it off its going to have limitations (at least the limitations that they have implied, if not more)

    AvatarDuke Leto


    That was more or less the consensus opinion in my thread on DPF miniturization.

    I’m more worried about radiation shielding then scaling the decelerator or the capacitor bank for several reasons:

    1) Anyone in close contact with the things will be a bit more worried about radiation then anything else.

    2) I don’t think much work has been done on capacitor miniturization as compared to transistor miniturization because there hasn’t been a need to do it. There’s probably a lot of potential approaches to mega-capacitor scaling that simply haven’t had the research money thrown at them.

    3) It seems to me there are 2 ways around the decelerator problem in a standard motor vehicle:
    a) Lay it out parallel to the transmission where the exaust no longer needs to be.
    b) Increase the intensity of the magnetic field proportional to the needed decrease in length.

    My primary concern about the need for DPFs retrofitted in existing motor vehicles is cultural. Our existing motor vehicles have a far greater range then the present electric vehicles. People are going to resist the loss of the road trip.

    Much more importantly is the existing infrastructure. We can probably slap a DPF on existing Diesel Electric freight locomotives without any problem, it’s the trucks that worry me. Large scale construction equipment can probably be powered from medium range cables onsite, but self contained plants would add a lot of mobility.

    AvatarDuke Leto

    Also, we’re ranging OT, anyone have any thoughts on the feasibility of the subterranean aquaculture/horticulture system I outlined?

    Anyone know anything about the magnitude of available volume of mining space?

    More on average proportions of tunnels, and the danger of structiral weaknesses? Remember that ideally most of the work would be done by surface stations, and that the workforce would enter the tunnels only at seedtime and harvest or for routine maintenance, a catastrophic collapse would most likely just take out some crops or fishies.

    If heavy metals and residual contaminants are a risk how hard would it be to purge them from the desired regions and create a environmental sealant on the tunnel walls?

    What high profit crops suitable to the appropriate spaces? Annuals that can be squeezed into three artificial growing seasons would be best, alternately, crops where the delivery cost is an important component of the end-consumer cost and closer proximity to the final market would make a big difference.

    If one were particularly amoral and/or libertarian, narcotic crops in a post-Drug War world would be an obvious choice.

    Salmon you could probably trick into their spawning pattern by getting them to swim up from growing tunnels at the bottom to spawning tunnels near the apex, feeding into lights and currents for the purposes of their insticts, maybe with continually decreasing water levels to assist.

    I think Tuna have been domesticated and Cod would be good, but you’d have to do some sleight of habd with currents and light levels to replicate their normal life cycles.

    MOST important, is there a process to convert excess biological waste to an organically inert carbonized form and toss it back into the deepest shafts?

    Thoughts? Scoffs? Flames?

    Kudos are the least useful.


    I would have thought the economics of using mines would be horrendous. As others have said you would firstly need to sel the surfaces to prevent contamination by heavy metals and so on, and that then brings you to the main problem – the weight of all that earth and rock overhead.
    It costs a lot of money to maintain mines in that high pressure environment – the greatest difficulty would probably be for the aquaculture idea, as it would then be very difficult to detect leaks bringing in contaminents.
    In an environment where you were growing trees etc then you would need to maintain the pumping operations to limit water ingress.
    All of it could be done, but why?
    There is no shortage of waste land – all that you normally have to do is add water. Cheap power would make it easy to do that, without any of the costs and difficulties of the approach you suggest.
    If for some reason you wanted to minimise land use, the productivity attained by hydroponic or systems where the roots are suspended in air is massive – you basically would have a series of containers, easily accesible at ground level.
    Given reasonably cheap power, there would be little difficulty in getting enormous productivity form such a system.
    If for some reason you wanted to economise even more on land use, rather heavier construction of the containers would allow the roofing over and planting to grass of the entire production area – still one heck of a lot cheaper and easier than keeping open a deep mine.
    Sorry, it doesn’t sound like a flyer to me.

    AvatarDuke Leto

    The basic concern was making sure that the coal mining communities don’t have to go through a nasty transition into ghost towns.

    AvatarGlenn Millam

    Duke Leto wrote: Anyone (Glenn) know anything on:

    The volume of operating subterranean mines?
    The volume of non-operating subterranean mines?
    Guesstimate of how much capital/energy/labor will need to go into hydroponics per unit of volume?

    Here is the most comprehensive breakdown of US Coal Industry I’ve found on the net.


    I hope this helps.

    AvatarDuke Leto

    OK, I’ve looked things over, and I think that the bleaker projection on the idea may be correct.

    First, most modern subterranean mining uses a technique called the “longwall”, where a large extraction mechanism processes a coal seam in its entirety while supports are held over it. As the material is extracted, the supports are advanced and the material is allowed to fill the now vacant space.

    Ergo, no tunnels.

    So it would only be OLD mines that would be useful, and therefore the least stable.. And then again there would be the startup expense of sealing, which would need to be a double sealant using one layer a to a cover the rock, some kind of intermediary liquid with sensors to find disturbances in said liquid from ruptures, and an outer layer. And then in aquaculture added supports would be needed to take care of the dangers of subsidance caused by the weight of the water.

    All very expensive…


    Wel The side effects that miners get go to show us the greater good of coal mines in ourpresent day and age. Coal is a fossil fuel and therefore needs to be treated as such and not destroyed faster than it can be reproduced. It is also a very dirty fuel which does add emmisions to our atmosphere that are much more harmful than any say cigarrette bans or even car emmisions. Though Car emissions are a big subject matter for me the emission of large plants make a huge impact on our environment. It’s like a mountain that is constantly erupting smoke particles into the atmosphere. This coming from someone who knows a lot about the mining industry of West Virginia.

    There are ways we can reduce the emmissions and there are strategies we can put in place, but you have strip mining going on at the same time which is loiterally chocking the planet to death. If you take a look at the mining industry the safety hazards far outweigh the benefits from it. If we can move away from the hazards of these things then it is beneficial to everyone. My family in West Virginia are very involved in the coal mining industry and I’ve seen first hand what it does to the landscapes and the areas that are afflicted literally by this industry.

    I would put coal on the same calibur with Oil at this point which recent mathmatics shows we have about 305 of what our total oil available to us left in this world at this point. With this in mind to make a temporary switch to Ethanol and Hydrogen fuels as Desalination is put into place is literally one of our only alternatives to saving the planet. As it is the burden on the economy is tremendous and it will cause a massive depression. Not just in the United States, but also worldwide. This is also if we do not keep ourselves from blowing up any of our precious volcanoes along the way. If even one true volcanoe blows then it could mean utter destruction for the planet with the lack of lubrication. Propane and natural gasses however are also still a viable alternative and all above ground resourses should be used to cover the oil mess.

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