I would like to express my sincere condolences to the Reeves family in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The patriarch, John A. Reeves, Sr., passed on March 1. (see People, p. 12). I knew him as the chief executive of Mid-Continent Resources when I was a young engineer in my twenties. He was an intelligent and inspiring man with a dry sense of humor. He had a positive impact on my life and so many others.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1986, Reeves offered me and several other mining engineering grads a job and we made the trek to MCR, which was located in the middle of the Rocky Mountains near Redstone, Colorado. I worked as a miner, a foreman and a project engineer for some deep, gassy longwall mines. We were developing panels and operating longwalls strike-wise on steeply dipping coal seams.
I could write a book on my MCR experiences and John, Sr., actually did. He would come underground frequently and meet with the miners and listen to them. He would spend time in the engineering office, exchanging ideas and giving direction.
Like all mines, we experienced highs and lows. MCR was operating superimposed districts in two seams separated by several hundred feet of interburden. Because of the depth and pressure, the development sections frequently experienced floor heave and face bursts would occur along the longwall face. John, Sr., believed that, if the panels in the lower seam were pulled first, it would destress the panels in the upper seam. No one had done this before and no one knew if it would work, but it did. The longwalls in the upper seam experienced several years of good stress-free mining. The mines had huge stockpiles of coal and steady cash flow.
The lowest of the lows came when the decision was made to close the mines. MCR had fought a pesky fire for a month in early 1991. The fire was ultimately extinguished using liquid CO2, which froze the rock that was reigniting a gas fissure. The economic loss, however, was too much. MCR called a townhall meeting in Carbondale and the mine’s workforce, probably 800 people at the time, learned their fate. It was a sad day.
MCR was a source of income for a lot of people in the Roaring Fork Valley, but for John, Sr., it was his life. He didn’t dwell and he moved on working on other projects. When I took the job with Coal Age, he corresponded occasionally with constructive criticism and whit. When I read his obit, I realized for the first time that I had only seen one small 5-year span of a long, interesting life. He served in World War II. He effected a management buyout to keep the mines running and the proceeds from that transaction went to a fund that supported regional education. Similar to us, he took a job in the mines straight out of college and worked hard. In his 60’s and 70’s, I think he saw a little bit of his younger self in all the engineers he hired. Rest in peace old friend.