With the coming layoffs of 115 at Elk Creek Mine, many are wondering what the future holds for the North Fork Valley coal mines.
Beginning with Oxbow Mining's Elk Creek Mine, Mike Ludlow, executive vice president, said last week the exact date of the layoffs is still undetermined.
"I had told all of our employees that it would be on or before Jan. 31. But it will be a day-to-day decision that will be made."
High carbon monoxide levels caused a shut down of longwall operations in the Elk Creek Mine in January. That problem initially affected 240 employees with 90 brought back to work. Then on Oct. 1, approximately 150 workers were laid off after attempts to re-open the section of the mine failed due to carbon monoxide created by the heating of the coal and spontaneous combustion.
The old longwall was sealed in the mine. According to Ludlow it takes 12 months from the time of an order for the longwall to be procured.
Continuous miner operations have also been stopped in the Elk Creek Mine.
Ludlow is "optimistic" that employees will be called back. "We plan on staying in the coal mining business and we plan on procuring a longwall for the Elk Creek Mine. I would like to think a lot of those employees would be available for us
. . . or be willing to come back to work here at that time."
Oxbow Mining still has exploration plans for the proposed Oak Mesa Mine. "We are still evaluating data from our last year's drilling. We have applied for an additional lease area to the north to expand our exploration area," Ludlow said.
"The coal business has seen cycles over the years of up and down, and I believe we are in a down cycle right now, and are at the bottom of that. I'm optimistic about the coal market for the future domestically and internationally. And, Oxbow plans to be part of that," Ludlow concluded.
"It's a very sad time for our employees, a very sad time here. Our workers have shown dedication and they have acted and performed better in most respects than we have ever asked. Just an outstanding group of employees."
What are the prospects for West Elk Mine? Kim Link, spokeswoman for Arch Coal, which owns the West Elk Mine said on Dec. 3, "We are continuing to place West Elk coal for 2014 delivery to domestic and international customers. In particular, we're seeing interest in the seaborne marketplace. In fact, more than half of West Elk's coal shipped into international markets in 2012. Given that we are still in the midst of our budget process and still actively placing coal for delivery next year, it would be premature to comment on the mine's likely run rate for next year."
Gene DiClaudio, chief operating officer for Bowie Resources, offered a much more positive forecast. He said last week, "We're ending the year on a very upbeat note. We're shipping as much coal as we can mine. Our sales are very strong for this year and going into next year. We got probably the majority if not all of our production sold next year. We're going into the next year with a lot of optimism and a high level of confidence that the business is going to do well."
The Bowie Mine is not experiencing bounces. "The area we are mining in right now is quite stable and we have not had any issues with any kind of bounces or the like. We are mining as we would plan to mine and as expected," DiClaudio said.
He offered some hopeful news on the hiring front. "We are looking at hiring somewhere on the order of 30 to 40 people over the next three to six months. So that is in our plan to do because we're increasing the development of the mine into a new reserve and we have a need to run more crews to do that," he said. "We would be adding crews to the continuous miner group in order to increase our development."
Prospects for the future are good. "The mine is very well positioned. We have a longterm contract with TVA and we're selling any production in excess of what we ship to TVA [by] exporting it through our west coast ports," DiClaudio said.
Bowie's agreement with TVA dates back many years.blog comments powered by Disqus