This year’s tonnage will be divided almost evenly between metallurgical and steam coal, according to Jesse Parrish, spokesman for the Lexington, Kentucky-based company. Blackhawk produced about 10 million tons in 2015 and has been increasing output steadily since it was founded in 2010 through the acquisition of the Spurlock mining complex in Floyd County, Kentucky, from bankrupt Black Diamond Mining Co.
The bulk of this year’s output is slated to come from CAPP, where Blackhawk now operates additional mines it picked up from bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp. last year. The company is targeting about 2 million tons of production from its Triad Mining subsidiary in Indiana, similar to last year. Blackhawk acquired Triad, its first purchase in the high-sulfur Illinois Basin, from bankupt James River Coal Co. in 2014.
According to Parrish, Blackhawk has enough sales to cover most of this year’s anticipated production.
However, the company continues to be adversely affected by soft market conditions, like other U.S. coal producers.
That is why it issued federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices on February 1 to approximately 160 employees at the Rowdy Gap, Spencer Fork and Thunder Ridge surface mines that are part of the company’s Pine Branch business unit in eastern Kentucky’s Perry and Leslie counties.
Together, the three mines produced nearly 1 million tons of steam coal in 2015. Unless Blackhawk is able to obtain more sales in the coming weeks, the mines are expected to close in March.
In early January, Blackhawk also issued WARN notices to employees at the Winchester underground mine and Hampden No. 2 mine, as well as the Tom’s Fork prep plant, in West Virginia’s Kanawha and Logan counties.
Two mines will continue to operate at the Pine Branch complex in several eastern Kentucky counties. They include the Wiley Branch and East Long Fork mines.
Pine Branch sells steam coal from the CAPP basin to a number of electric utilities in the southeastern U.S. and international utility customers, according to Blackhawk’s website.