While the precise timing for longwall production is still a bit uncertain, it probably will be in October “plus or minus a month,” Joe Craft, president and CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, told analysts during a recent conference call. Alliance is providing major financing to privately owned White Oak Resources for the new mine and, among other things, previously committed to acquire and fund development of at least 200 million tons of reserves related to White Oak No. 1.
In actuality, it has acquired more than that.
During the first quarter of 2014, a subsidiary of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Alliance acquired an additional 5.1 million tons of reserves. That followed the acquisition, in two separate transactions during the past two years, of about 295 million tons of reserves. Alliance acquires the reserves and leases them back to White Oak in exchange for a royalty income stream.
About 150 million tons are currently being developed for future mining at White Oak No. 1. Alliance’s White Oak venture is being handled through its WOR Property and WOR Processing subsidiaries. WOR Processing earned $3.6 million from White Oak in the first three months of this year for processing and loading coal through its above-ground facilities at the mine.
Alliance’s return on its White Oak No. 1 investment is expected to increase once the longwall is up and running. When that happens, the mine should produce at the rate of about 6 million tons a year. White Oak No. 1 produced 264,702 tons in the first quarter of 2014, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, up from 185,566 tons in 2013. It has 208 employees.