Strip mining exposes the coal by removing the overburden (the earth above the coal seam(s)) in long cuts or strips. The soil from the first strip is deposited in an area outside the planned mining area. Spoil from subsequent cuts is deposited as fill in the previous cut after coal has been removed. Usually, the process is to drill the strip of overburden next to the previously mined strip.
The drill holes are filled with explosives and blasted. The overburden is then removed using large earthmoving equipment such as draglines, shovel and trucks, excavator and trucks, or bucket-wheels and conveyors. This overburden is put into the previously mined (and now empty) strip. When all the overburden is removed, the underlying coal seam will be exposed (a 'block' of coal). This block of coal may be drilled and blasted (if hard) or otherwise loaded onto trucks or conveyors for transport to the coal preparation (or wash) plant. Once this strip is empty of coal, the process is repeated with a new strip being created next to it. This method is most suitable for areas with flat terrain.
Equipment to be used depends on geological conditions. For example, to remove overburden that is loose or unconsolidated, a bucket wheel excavator might be the most productive. The life of some area mines may be more than 50 years.