The proposed Delaware mine near a small community by the same name along the McLean County-Daviess County border would be Massey’s first in the high-sulfur western Kentucky coalfield. As far back as 2007, though, Massey signaled its intent to expand from its traditional Appalachian base into the Illinois Basin.

According to Whitaker, the Delaware mine is farther along than Buck Creek’s planned operation near Rumsey.  Massey has secured the necessary leases and permits for the new mine and Delaware could be extracting coal from the region’s predominant No. 9 seam within a year and a half, he said. It may take Buck Creek two years to get going.  Delaware would be the smaller of the two mines, turning out about 2.2 million tons annually for a couple of decades, Whitaker said. Buck Creek would produce about 3.5 million tons a year.

Both mines are expected to feature room-and-pillar mining using continuous miners.

Whitaker said Stanley Pigman, a native of Knott County in eastern Kentucky, was instrumental in forming Buck Creek. After earning a degree in mining engineering in 1981, Pigman began his career as a project engineer for Sierra Coal Co. in eastern Kentucky. In 1983, he moved to Lexington, Ky., to become a market analyst with Old Ben Coal Co. Pigman became the company’s manager of marketing in 1987 and later became director of marketing for Pyro Mining Co. in Henderson, Ky. In 1992, he and two partners formed Sugar Camp Coal and later partnered with Black Beauty Coal in Evansville, Ind., where he became vice president for marketing in 2000.  A year later, he formed Pigman Coal Sales in High Point. Black Beauty subsequently was acquired by Peabody Coal Co.

McLean County’s last operating coal mine closed early last decade. With a population of only 10,000, the county is ringed by several traditional coal-producing counties, including Muhlenberg, Ohio, Daviess, Hopkins and Henderson.

Western Kentucky produces more than 30 million tons of coal annually.