Oxbow Mining President Michael Ludlow said the blaze started on a conveyor that feeds the batch train loading facility.
“The apparent cause of the fire was hot coal from spontaneous combustion in the coal storage silo,” he told Coal Age. “The hot coal leaked onto the conveyor igniting the conveyor belt [and] the fire traveled up the conveyor belt.”
As a result of the heat, Ludlow said, there is damage to the elevated conveyor structure as well as some minor damage to the upper floor of the batch weigh building.
The fire was brought under control and extinguished by the Paonia Fire Department.
While Ludlow did not indicate the current operating status of the mine, he did confirm that plans are being made to dismantle the surface structure and assess the damage.
“Once the extent of the damage is determined, we will decide our course of action to replace the conveyor,” he said.
Some local media outlets stated in the hours following the fire that it was not the first such event at the operation, though the other eruptions at the mine were reportedly put out before any major damage could be caused.
Oxbow’s Elk Creek mine, located near Paonia, idled operations last December. More than 250 workers were laid off in two phases prior to the shutdown; the complex now employs 18.