The total number of longwall mines, according to Coal Age’s annual U.S. longwall census dropped by one to 48 from 49 last year. The U.S. coal industry now includes a total of 42 longwall mining operations with six mines operating two faces. Two of the longwall installations are non-coal mines cutting soft rock in Wyoming.

CONSOL Energy is no longer the leading U.S. longwall producer. After it purchased five mines, which operated six faces, from CONSOL Energy, Murray Energy has emerged as the leading U.S. longwall operator with 11 faces. CONSOL Energy now operates six longwall faces. Foresight Energy operates four longwall faces. Arch Coal sold three former Canyon Fuel Co. mines to Bowie Resource Partners (BRP), bringing Arch Coal’s total down to three and raising BRP’s total to three.

 Table 1—Longwall Installations, by Parent Company (2013-2014)
Company Ala. Colo. Ill. Mont. N.M. Ohio Pa. Utah Va. W.Va. Wyo. Total
Alliance Resource Partners                   2   2
Alpha Natural Resources             3         3
AmCoal     2                 2
American Energy           1           1
Arch Coal   1               2   3
BHP Billiton         1             1
Blue Mountain Energy   1                   1
Bowie Resource Partners   1           2       3
Cliffs Natural Resources 1                 1   2
CONSOL Energy             5   1     6
Drummond 1                     1
Energy West               1       1
FMC Corp.                     1 1
Foresight Energy     4                 4
Murray American Energy                   6   6
Ohio Valley Coal           1           1
Pacific Minerals                     1 1
Patriot Coal                   2   2
Peabody Energy   1                   1
Signal Peak Energy       1               1
Solvay Chemicals                     1 1
UtahAmerican Energy                1       1
Walter Energy 3                     3
Total 5 4 6 1 1 2 8 4 1 13 3 48


Three new longwall installations were added and four were removed. Foresight Energy added a second face to the Sugar Camp mine in Illinois. Arch Coal brought the Leer mine into production in West Virginia. CONSOL Energy will soon bring the BMX into production in Pennsylvania. Walter Energy’s North River mine in Alabama was removed. Oxbow Mining sealed the Elk Creek longwall in Colorado. BRP’s Dugout Canyon mine in Utah no longer operates a longwall. Alpha Natural Resources’ Revolution mine in West Virginia was also removed.

With 13 faces, West Virginia remains the longwall leader, followed by Pennsylvania (8), Illinois (6), and Alabama (5). Looking at the numbers, the average U.S. longwall mine operating in coal produces 4.41 million tons per year (tpy). On average it has a cutting height of 91 in., a panel width (or face length) of 1,188 ft, and a panel length of 11,307 ft. Last year, those numbers were 90 in., 1,137 ft and 10,802 ft, respectively. A total of 18 longwalls operate in the Pittsburgh No. 8 seam. The maximum overburden on average reaches 1,139 ft. Except for a few mines in Utah, most are developed with three-entry gates. Using a 1,786-hp double-drum, ranging-arm shearer, they take a 39-in. cut. The average yield setting on the shield is 1,042 tons. Most (43 faces) are high voltage (4,160 volts).

As far as extremes, the deepest longwall mine is the West Ridge mine in Utah, operating at a depth of 3,000 ft. The Powhatan No. 6 mine in Ohio operates the longest face: 1,650 ft. At 26,000 ft, the Mach mine in Illinois has the longest panel. The West Elk mine in Colorado and the SUFCO mine in Utah are operating 2,805-hp shearers.

Ownership was the most significant change for the 2014 U.S. Longwall Census. Arch Coal sold its Dugout Canyon, Skyline and SUFCO mines in Utah to BRP. Murray Energy purchased all of the CONSOL Energy longwall mines operating in West Virginia. This transaction included the Blacksville No. 2 mine, the Loveridge mine, the McElroy mine (which operates two longwall faces), the Robinson Run mine and the Shoemaker mine. Murray Energy renamed all of these mines and placed them in a newly formed division, Murray American Energy. Blacksville No. 2 is now Monongalia County; Loveridge is Marion County; McElroy is Marshall County; Robinson Run is now Harrison County; and Shoemaker is Ohio County. With the acquisition, Murray Energy effectively swapped positions with CONSOL Energy as far as national rankings in total coal production and the total number of longwall faces.

Building the Bowie Brand
BRP surprised the coal business when it acquired the Canyon Fuel operations from Arch Coal last summer. “After acquiring the assets, we formed a new company that really doesn’t resemble the old company at all,” said John Siegel, chairman of BRP. “We are looking at the coal business through a prism that didn’t exist when the former owner had these assets. What drove us to purchase these properties was a vision that was completely different.”

“Even as we have a relentless commitment to improving our value as a supplier to our core domestic customers, BRP is also focusing on developing West Coast export capacity. We knew there was increasing demand for western bituminous coal globally,” Siegel said. “Our vision is to provide the cleanest, most efficient burning coal we can make available to emerging, industrializing economies. Working with our partner Trafigura, and the Ports of Stockton and Levin Richmond Terminal, that vision has now become a reality.

“In our first quarter of operations [Q4 2013], we exceeded our projections from production, sales and revenue standpoints,” Siegel said. “We have optimized these assets by penetrating export markets that didn’t exist before we purchased them. The Skyline mine, which historically produced 2.5 million tpy, is a prime example. We are currently running Skyline at a 3.8-million-tpy run rate because we have developed markets that didn’t previously exist for this operation.”

Since the closing of the Los Angeles Export Terminal in 2004, many export markets for western bituminous coal dried up. “Since May 2013, when we began working together with Trafigura, we have exported more than 1.6 million tons and we hope to double that in 2014,” Siegel said.

The Bowie mine in Colorado had some geological issues. “We made some changes in mine management and operations,” Siegel said. “The longwall panels have been reoriented in an east-west direction, which is similar to the configuration when the mine had its best performance. We are rapidly bringing Bowie back up to the lofty standards set by our Canyon Fuel operations.”

Siegel credits Gene DiClaudio, COO of BRP, and the four mine managers for completing the transition from the former owner to BRP. “We have a great group of people who enjoy working together,” Siegel said. “Our motto is: Check your ego at the door.” Siegel also recognized Jim Wolff, CFO of BRP, for shepherding and spearheading the integration of the two companies.

Looking toward the future, BRP has significant life of mine enhancement opportunities with contiguous natural flowing reserves. “We are looking at a reserve base in excess of 400 million tons,” Siegel said. “We have 30 or more years of life. Our future plan is to grow the Bowie brand globally with Trafigura’s help.” The Q4 performance for all four mines has exceeded projections as far as safety, production, sales, environmental performance and profitability.

You can view the rest of the Longwall Census tables in our Digital Edition.

Table 2—Longwall Coal Production (2012-2013)
U.S. Longwall Mines  2013 2012 % Change
CONSOL Energy Bailey 11,321,481 10,122,862 11.80%
CONSOL Energy Enlow Fork 10,111,722 9,459,485 6.90%
Murray American Energy Marshall County 9,403,070 9,400,485 0.00%
Signal Peak Energy Bull Mountain  8,682,884 5,707,633 52.10%
American Energy Corp. Century  8,039,546 8,446,709 -4.80%
Peabody Energy Twentymile 7,235,627 7,974,732 -9.30%
Foresight Energy Mach Mining 6,694,630 7,528,061 -11.10%
Foresight Energy Sugar Camp 6,493,536 4,690,260 38.40%
BHP Billiton  San Juan South 5,989,380 4,960,375 20.70%
Bowie Resource Partners Sufco No. 1 5,960,266 5,650,446 5.50%
Arch Coal West Elk 5,826,798 6,852,136 -15.00%
Murray American Energy Harrison County 5,700,956 4,992,046 14.20%
Murray American Energy Ohio County 5,619,263 5,316,374 5.70%
Alpha Natural Resources Cumberland 5,576,502 6,425,363 -13.20%
Ohio Valley Coal Powhatan No. 6 5,550,146 5,767,737 -3.80%
AmCoal New Future 5,450,222 3,642,169 49.60%
Walter Energy Blue Creek No. 7 5,405,412 4,764,268 13.50%
Murray American Energy Marion County 5,307,709 5,869,454 -9.60%
Foresight Energy Deer Run 4,845,308 2,365,356 104.80%
CONSOL Energy Buchanan 4,783,655 3,506,216 36.40%
Pacific Minerals Bridger 4,442,616 4,636,557 -4.20%
AmCoal New Era 4,419,659 5,641,788 -21.70%
Alliance Resource Partners Tunnel Ridge 3,694,046 2,000,531 84.70%
Alpha Natural Resources Emerald No. 1 3,584,579 4,384,253 -18.20%
Patriot Coal Federal No. 2 3,363,090 4,044,937 -16.90%
Bowie Resource Partners Bowie No. 2 3,320,696 3,430,291 -3.20%
Murray American Energy Monongalia County 3,139,164 3,231,148 -2.80%
Energy West Mining Deer Creek 2,810,298 3,294,734 -14.70%
Cliffs Resources Pinnacle No. 50 2,807,071 2,432,878 15.40%
UtahAmerican Energy West Ridge 2,629,495 2,409,444 9.10%
Walter Energy Blue Creek No. 4 2,622,528 1,903,381 37.80%
Patriot Coal American Eagle  2,410,162 2,266,211 6.40%
Alliance Resource Partners Mountain View  2,328,708 2,284,548 1.90%
Cliffs Resources Oak Grove 2,269,014 2,206,797 2.80%
Arch Coal Mountaineer II 2,268,863 2,543,761 -10.80%
Blue Mountain Energy Deserado 1,861,494 1,673,461 11.20%
Bowie Resource Partners Skyline  1,714,469 1,894,468 -9.50%
Drummond Co. Inc. Shoal Creek 1,328,724 1,286,573 3.30%
Arch Coal Leer 569,488 NA NA
Total U.S. Longwall Production   185,012,789 182,801,611 1.20%
Source: Mine Safety and Health Administration.