In Australia, a judge threw out a case brought against an Xstrata project related to climate change (See World News, p.6). The U.S. coal industry scored a major victory for the permitting process when a judge overturned the case involving the Spruce No.1 mine and ridiculed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over how it revoked a standing permit (See News, p. 4). Yet, the EPA continues to implement policies that will only hurt the economy by driving energy prices higher.

Where Coal Age really stands apart from the other media outlets is its technical reporting and in-depth industry coverage. As an example, an exclusive article this month (See Dragline Mining, p. 34) reports on a new AC retrofit for draglines, a revolutionary change in surface mining technology that Coal Age reported first. West Virginia passed a new set of regulations for underground coal mining (See Safety Regulations, p. 48). Rhetorically, the Coal Age article ponders whether the regulations went too far or not far enough to protect the lives of underground miners.

The cover story this month is United Coal’s new Affinity prep plant. This feature article details how a small, but important Appalachian coal operator is revisiting older properties and restoring old coal-processing installations with new technology. It’s a fascinating read for those that know coal preparation. In fact, with nearly 20 pages dedicated to it, readers could accuse Coal Age of being slightly biased toward coal preparation. Guilty as charged. This edition is also a keepsake for those attending the 2012 Coal Prep conference and exhibition in Lexington, Ky.

Coal preparation is an often overlooked, but an important aspect of the coal chain. Granted, it takes hundreds of miners to produce millions of tons coal, while a handful of a few well-trained technicians remove the impurities from that product stream. Without them though, many coal companies would not have a saleable product. As everyone knows, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. When the prep plant goes down, production backs up all the way to the face. When everything is running right, however, these plant managers and technicians go quietly about their jobs and take pride in consistently delivering a quality product.

Consistently delivering a quality product, that’s one of our goals too. Thank you for being a valued reader. Coal Age respects the trust you place with us as an authority and appreciates the opportunity to engage readers by whatever means (print, digital, etc.). Using the content that we provide, we hope that informed readers can mine and process coal more safely and efficiently. Enjoy this edition of Coal Age.