This study addresses the major geo-environmental hazards caused by shallow coal mining in China's western eco-environment frangible area. These hazards are related to the high overburden pressure, surface subsidence, soil and water losses, and land desertification, with consequent vegetation and wildlife losses. To mitigate these hazards, three alternative backfill mining methods are proposed, for three typical shallow coal mining conditions, using aeolian sand-based backfilling materials, which are readily available in this area. The main influencing factor is the backfill material compaction ratio (BMCR). Its effect on aquiclude deformation and water-conducting fracture evolutions are assessed by numerical and physical simulation methods. The potential application of the proposed backfill coal mining alternatives is evaluated and discussed in detail. The results obtained are considered to be instrumental for substantiating a strategy for the coordinated exploitation of coal resources and the environmental protection in China's western frangible eco-environment area.

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