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Production Comes to a Halt at Galatia


Murray Energy Corp.’s once-bustling Galatia underground coal mining complex in Saline County, Illinois, is less busy these days after coal production essentially ceased this summer at the New Future mine, coming on the heels of a similar move at its sister New Era operation. State mining records show New Future produced only about 29,000 tons of steam coal in August, with most, if not all, coming from raw, above-ground coal that was run through the Galatia processing plant. According to state mining officials, New Future had 32 full-time employees at the end of August. More recent production and staffing figures were not available by early October.

American Coal Co., a subsidiary of Ohio-based Murray Energy, has operated the Galatia mines since it was incorporated in 1998. The Galatia asset was acquired by Murray from Kerr-McGee Coal Corp., which opened the first deep mine on the property just outside the community of Galatia in the early 1980s.

Galatia’s official status is uncertain as Gary Broadbent, Murray Energy senior corporate counsel and director of investor and media relations, declined to comment when asked if New Future had closed.

However, the company said in a federal WARN Act notice in April that nearly 300 New Future miners would be laid off later in the year. That number comprised most of the remaining work force at New Future, the successor mine at Galatia after New Era was shut earlier this year.

New Future was seen as the lower-cost and more efficient of the two Galatia mines. But the company said in a prior statement about the April layoff that New Future had encountered “adverse mining conditions” and that the company was “reviewing all of its current options with respect to this operation.”

Murray Energy now has ownership control of St. Louis-based Foresight Energy, owner of four mines including three longwall operations in Illinois. Murray Energy has been transferring high-cost production to the Foresight mines.

That apparently is what Murray Energy has done with respect to the nearly 3 million tons of high-sulfur steam coal that AmCoal was contracted to sell to Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co. by 2019. LG&E and KU are Kentucky’s largest electric utilities, serving about 1.1 million customers. They are owned by Pennsylvania-based PPL Corp.

New Future produced just under 2 million tons of coal in the first six months of 2017, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration figures show, although its output tailed off during the second quarter. New Era has had no production this year, according to MSHA.

That is in sharp contrast to Galatia's recent mining history. In 2014, the Galatia complex turned out approximately 11.3 million tons of coal, with a permanent work force of 935 people. It was one of the largest coal producers in Illinois, along with the Foresight mines.

For several decades, the Galatia complex’s sprawling operations, highlighted by its brightly illuminated prep plant, have been a familiar sight to motorists driving between Harrisburg and Galatia.