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Confusion over mining plans and coal deposits

But Flood geology explains them

Published: 22 August 2015 (GMT+10)
jnl-cover
Near-vertical coalified, fossilized tree stump sitting on the Lower Pilot Seam within the ‘Permian’ coal measures near Swansea, New South Wales, Australia.

Today’s feedback is from S.M. of South Africa who commented under Dominic Statham’s article The truth … and nothing but the truth.

This article highlighted how David Attenborough’s documentary series “Rise of Animals” deliberately selected what was presented in order to convince viewers that evolution is true. Statham called for such videos to present the “whole truth”. S.M. initially agrees but as you read on he reveals a different position.

So true. In a series such as that, I would have included examples of how coal mining companies proceed in doing exploration, mining, etc.

I would have emphasised the fact that the natural science of Geology is practically applied in mining. Experimental science if you wish. I even would have provided a few examples of mining plans and how the findings of geology influence the way they’re mining.

As an example I would have used the mines in the most intensely exploited coalfield in my country, the Witbank Coalfield.

The coal seams were deposited in a range of depositional environments from proximal conglomeratic alluvial fans through fluvial, delta-plain, lake margin, back barrier and blanket mires in sediment starved basins.

Most of the commercial seams are contained in fluvial and delta-plain sequences, with thick, dip-elongate, inter-channel seams and more extensive coals typically overlying abandoned delta lobes. These coals are characterised by low sulphur, rare seat earths and close association with conglomeratic sediments that are largely glaciogene in origin.

The mining plans are heavily influenced by the position of the mine on the old alluvial fans through fluvial, delta-plain, lake margin, back barrier and blanket mires. The mine plans change as the environment of deposition changed.

So, in the end I even would have explained exactly how those mining companies came to their conclusions and exactly how these findings influence the mining plans.

I then would have explained that is how we know that the Witbank Coalfield was not deposited during a big flood and why the conclusion is that it took millions of years for those sequences (including the coal seams) to form. No radiometric dating necessary for that. Just mining plans!

S.M.


CMI geologist responds. 

Dear S.M.,

Thank you for your comment. I will respond within your text.

So true. In a series such as that, I would have included examples of how coal mining companies proceed in doing exploration, mining, etc.

I am familiar with coal mining, having inspected many coal mines when I worked as an engineer with the Electricity Industry in Queensland, Australia, and having been involved in the planning of new coal mines for new power stations.

I would have emphasised the fact that the natural science of Geology is practically applied in mining. Experimental science if you wish. I even would have provided a few examples of mining plans and how the findings of geology influence the way they’re mining.

Yes, and the main issues that mining companies are interested in are the geometrical shape of the coal deposit and its enclosing sediments, as well as the quality of the coal, such as its heating value, ash content, and the properties of the ash. They are not interested in when it formed, or how. Nevertheless, geologists have models for how they think the coal was deposited, from which they hope to anticipate the geometry of the deposit. However, these models are usually more connected with geometry than time.

As an example I would have used the mines in the most intensely exploited coalfield in my country, the Witbank Coalfield.

Sounds interesting. I travelled across that area when I visited South Africa in 2011.

The coal seams were deposited in a range of depositional environments from proximal conglomeratic alluvial fans through fluvial, delta-plain, lake margin, back barrier and blanket mires in sediment starved basins.

As soon as you start talking about depositional environments you have moved from geological observation to philosophical interpretation, and that is where the issue becomes confused. When you speak of alluvial fans, delta-plains, and lakes, etc. you are describing the types of environments we see on the earth today, where these features persist for hundreds and thousands of years. Clearly, this interpretation is not compatible with Noah’s Flood.

However, the same sorts of features would have formed during Noah’s Flood, but they would have persisted only for days and weeks as sediments rapidly accumulated and relative sea-level rose. The observations of these physical features in the rocks are not a problem for Flood geology, just the interpretation that they developed at the rates observed today.

We would envisage that during the Flood the various processes that operated would have had similarities with what is seen today. For example, depositional environments such as alluvial fans would have developed during Noah’s Flood as sediment was carried along by flowing water and deposited in areas where the currents slowed. However, the environments during the Flood would have been on a much larger scale, and they would have grown and ‘evolved’ quickly, because the Flood was an enormous catastrophe.

Michael C. Rygel via Wikimedia Commons polystrate-fossil
Polystrate fossil from the Joggins Formation (Pennsylvanian), Cumberland Basin, Nova Scotia.

These sorts of similarities, such as in the shapes of sedimentary fans and the relationships between bodies of water and flowing streams, are known to occur at different scales with flowing fluids. The relationships are often correlated by means of non-dimensional numbers, such as Reynolds number and Froude number, which are used to predict fluid flow patterns on a small and large scale, and with different flow parameters. This sort of analysis is important when engineers make a small-scale physical model of a situation, such as a river or coastline, so they can predict the effects of a proposed development on the full scale situation.

One indication from the evidence you describe that the coal deposits were formed by large-scale catastrophic processes is the “conglomeratic fan”. Conglomerates point to high energy water flows, which is consistent with the sorts of processes that happened during the Flood. Another indication would be the physical size of the alluvial fan, but you did not describe this. Almost always Flood features are much larger than similar shaped features that develop today.

While there are similarities, there would also have been differences. In a Flood environment the vegetation, which now forms the coal, would not have grown in place, in a swamp, because there would not have been enough time for that. Instead, it would have been washed into place from elsewhere. In other words, that vegetation grew during the pre-Flood era and was ripped up by the Flood. A careful examination of the evidence within coal measures around the world reveals how the vegetation was washed into place. See, for example, Coal, volcanism and Noah’s Flood and Mining mountains in West Virginia.

Most of the commercial seams are contained in fluvial and delta-plain sequences, with thick, dip-elongate, inter-channel seams and more extensive coals typically overlying abandoned delta lobes. These coals are characterised by low sulphur, rare seat earths and close association with conglomeratic sediments that are largely glaciogene in origin.

As discussed above, the fans, plains and channels would have been formed by the hydraulic processes that deposited the sediments during Noah’s Flood.

However, you mention “glaciogene” which means deposited from glaciers, and of course, glaciers would not have been possible during Noah’s Flood. But remember, this environmental interpretation is just that, an interpretation—no one observed the glaciers. A glacial interpretation is usually invoked because of the large sedimentary clasts (e.g. cobbles and boulders) in the deposit, sometimes accompanied by grooves and striations on rock surfaces. The reason a glacial interpretation is invoked is simple—the large conglomerate clasts would require water flows of biblical proportions, and that is not allowed within uniformitarian philosophy.

A number of deposits in South Africa have been classified as glacial, such as the Dwyka Group. However, when these deposits are examined in detail, their characteristics are significantly different from those of the Pleistocene Ice Age, which was a post-Flood development. This indicates that they are not glacial but the consequence of enormous underwater avalanches (see: Oard, M.J., An ancient ‘ice age’ deposit attributed to subaqueous mass flow—again Journal of Creation 22(2):36–39, 2008. Also: Oard, M.J., Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? Monograph Series, Creation Research Society, 1997).

The mining plans are heavily influenced by the position of the mine on the old alluvial fans through fluvial, delta-plain, lake margin, back barrier and blanket mires. The mine plans change as the environment of deposition changed.

Yes, that is the way mine plans are developed. But, and as I mentioned above, these geometrical patterns are controlled by physical parameters that would have been in play during Noah’s Flood.

So, in the end I even would have explained exactly how those mining companies came to their conclusions and exactly how these findings influence the mining plans.

Explaining how mining companies come to their conclusions is not the same as explaining how the coal deposits were emplaced.

I then would have explained that is how we know that the Witbank Coalfield was not deposited during a big flood and why the conclusion is that it took millions of years for those sequences (including the coal seams) to form. No radiometric dating necessary for that. Just mining plans!

You have made a big, unsubstantiated jump here that does not follow. You have not proved that the deposit was not made during Noah’s Flood. Nor have you demonstrated that it was deposited over millions of years. You have explained that mining companies plan their mines based on the geometric shape of the deposits. Also, you have presented some of the standard geological interpretations for the depositional environments without realizing that these interpretations are based on hidden philosophical assumptions with built-in long-age implications. This is what needs to be brought into the open so you can free your mind and get back to the real geological data.

There are many other features of coal deposits globally that point to catastrophic allochthonous (originating in a place other than where found) deposition. I do not know the details of the coalfield you speak about, but from other coal measures around the world you can expect to find the following features in your area:

  1. Often there are boulders incorporated in the coal, pointing to catastrophic deposition (E.g.: Price, P.H., Erratic Boulders in Sewell Coal of West Virginia, The Journal of Geology 40(1):62–73, 1932).
  2. Often there are large, well-preserved tree trunks passing through coal seams, again pointing to rapid deposition (see the first image above (the Journal cover) of a tree trunk within ‘Permian’ coal measures north of Sydney, Australia).
  3. Often these tree trunks sit in a near-vertical position indicating that the various layers covering the trunk were laid down rapidly (see Polystrate fossils: evidence for a young earth).
  4. Usually the coal demonstrates sorting by water with finer vegetation, such as leaves and branches, in one area and the large wooden tree trunks in another.
  5. Usually the seams have clay, or seat earth as you mention, underneath, not soil, indicating that the vegetation did not grow in place but was washed in.
  6. Often the coal has a low ash content (not the partings but within the coal itself) indicating that it did not accumulate slowly over millions of years, otherwise it would have been contaminated by dust and sediment.
  7. Often the coal is in Z-shaped or forked seams indicating that the seams were deposited quickly (see Forked seams sabotage swamp theory).
  8. Etc.
  9. Once again, thanks very much for your message. I hope you will do more reading about coal and geology on our site. I have met many geologists in my travels who have found creation.com geology articles helpful. Many have told me they had read through many of the articles over a period of time, and found them life changing. They said they had to do a lot of reading because they had absorbed so many long-age ideas from their training, which acted as road blocks in their thinking.

    The fact is that the Bible is recording the true history of the earth. It tells us how the Creator God has interacted with people in the past, and that indicates how He wants to have a relationship with us in the present. He has a plan for our lives. We will never find satisfaction or fulfilment until we fulfil the purpose for which He has placed us on this earth.

    All the best,
    Tas Walker

Helpful Resources

Flood By Design
by Michael J Oard
From
US $15.00

Readers’ comments

Roy A.
Thank God for Geologists on the creation side. I too, would have been taken in by the "story" and not the actual observable "facts and evidence."

Great article and very helpful.
Michael T.
"As soon as you start talking about depositional environments you have moved from geological observation to philosophical interpretation, and that is where the issue becomes confused. When you speak of alluvial fans, delta-plains, and lakes, etc. you are describing the types of environments we see on the earth today, where these features persist for hundreds and thousands of years."

I have re-read this a few times and I *think* Tas Walker is saying that the "depositional environments from proximal conglomeratic alluvial fans through fluvial, delta-plain, lake margin, back barrier and blanket mires in sediment starved basins" are long-age mechanisms which have been imagined to account for large coal deposits.
Tas Walker
Hi Michael, No, I'm saying the concept of an environment as generally applied is a long-age concept based on the idea that the present is the key to the past. It's a term that carries long-age connotations. The conditions under which the sediments deposited during Noah's Flood only lasted for days and weeks, so the term environment tends to give a misleading impression.
Peter N.
Great article. It was interesting that S.M.'s certainty in his science almost blinded me and seemed convincing at first - but then your reply showed that we all risk being blinded by assuming that the good stories we have been taught are true rather than checking to see whether other stories fit the facts better with less assumptions.

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