SUNDAY S TEAMBOAT P ILOT & TODAY
January 20, 2013 • VOLUME 126, NUMBER 24 • STEAMBOATTODAY.COM
TWENTYMILE COAL CO./COURTESY
The underground economic engine that is Routt County’s Twentymile Coal Co. Page 2A ❰❰ TAKE ME APART
■ Routt County gun owners at Saturday meeting in Steamboat told to speak out See page 9A ■ Average January temperature in Steamboat on track to be coldest on record See page 9A
“The most important thing about being a professional athlete is creating an image that you can live with after the game comes to an end.” — Sports columnist John F. Russell See page 1B
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Steamboat Pilot & Today
ost never will go 1,500 feet underground and tour Colorado’s most productive coal mine, located just 15 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs. For that matter, most of the 20,000-plus people who call Routt County home probably give little thought to the mine or its local significance.
Stories and photos by Matt Stensland Design by Laura Mazade STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
“They live right here with all this, and they don’t even know,” said John Papierski, a Twentymile Coal Co. miner who works three 13-hour shifts each week repairing the machines that build the tunnels that weave through a major coal seam beneath Routt County. As long as the lights turn on when the switches are flipped, what happens at Twentymile Mine seemingly is irrelevant to most in Northwest Colorado. There are daily reminders, however. Like the large coal bucket on display in downtown Oak Creek that reminds passers-by that coal is what brought many settlers here in the late 1800s. And there are the two coal-fired power plants in Hayden and Craig and the daily coal trains that pass through Steamboat Springs. They serve as subtle reminders that coal still is a big industry here. “I’m not sure they actually know where their electricity is coming from,” said Adam Patterson, a 25-year-old mine engineer whose face was covered in black coal dust after doing a survey of the mine’s ventilation system earlier this month. According to Yampa Valley Electric Association Manager Larry Covillo, electricity customers in Routt and Moffat counties get 65 percent of their electricity from coal-fired power plants operated by Xcel Energy. At the underground Twen-
tymile Mine headquartered along Routt County Road 27, 8.3 million tons of low-sulphur coal was unearthed in 2012, once again making it the most productive coal mine in Colorado. Nationwide, the mine ranked 21st in total coal production. In 2011, the mine produced 29 percent of the coal unearthed in Colorado. The Colorado Mining Association reports that the average price per ton of coal that year was $39.61, making Twentymile’s potential coal revenues in 2011 a whopping $328 million. The economic impacts of the mine are vast. It’s the secondlargest employer and the largest property tax contributor in Routt County. With a $200 million investment in a new mine portal, Twentymile Coal Co. and its parent company — Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal producer in the world — appear committed to staying in Routt County so long as there is coal to pull from the earth and a market to sell it.
Heading to work On a cold Tuesday morning in January, the parking lot at Twentymile Mine is filled with cars belonging to the 110 miners working underground that day. To help guarantee their cars will start after emerging from the mine at the end of their shifts, many of the workers have engine-block heaters plugged
Twentymile Coal Co. employees attend a briefing before starting their shifts underground. Twentymile employs about 500 people and another 100 or so who are contracted. Five shifts of miners take turns working at the mine 24 hours per day.
into rows of electrical strips. Some even are known to keep a heater running inside their cars. No other buildings can be seen from the mine headquarters located along Foidel Creek. A sign displays a safety message for the miners as they walk into the building housing offices, equipment supply rooms and a locker room with dozens of overalls hanging from the ceiling. Outside the building is a yard full of construction equipment, a maintenance building, stacks of logs and other supplies used by the mine. In the distance, a conveyor belt climbs above a large pile of coal that is being moved around by a bulldozer. Five shifts of miners take turns working at the mine 24 hours per day, 361 days per year. Altogether, Twentymile Mine employs about 500 people. Another 100 or so are contracted workers. Yampa Valley Medical
Top producing U.S. coal mines The top producing coal mines in the U.S. for the past six years are shown in gray. Twentymile Mine is the top producing coal mine in Colorado. 50 million tons Not pictured are North Antelope Rochelle Mine and Black Thunder, which each typically produce more than 80 million tons per year.
Twentymile Mine in Routt County: Ranked 21 in 2011, producing 7,748,909 tons.
2008 2009 2010 2011 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration MICHAEL SCHRANTZ/STAFF
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Center, Routt County’s largest employer, directly employs 582 people and has 22 independent contractors. Steamboat Ski Area is the third-largest employer with 250 full-time employees. Twentymile employees have some significant spending power. According to the company, the entry-level hourly pay rate for an inexperienced miner is about $23. With a standard 40-hour work week, those entry-level workers make $47,840 annually. Opportunities to work overtime are ample, and miners also receive bonuses for not getting hurt and meeting production goals. According to Twentymile, its employees have a benefits package valued at 40 percent of their annual earnings. “We are probably one of the better employers in the community,” Twentymile Mine Environmental Manager Jerry Nettleton said. Employees’ pay increases annually through merit raises, and miners earn more for having certifications such as having an electrical card or foreman’s papers. Mining provides a good paycheck. According to the Colorado Mining Association, the average pay and value of benefits for a coal miner in 2011 was $115,354. With about two-thirds of its employees residing in Moffat County, the economic impacts of Twentymile Mine extend across county lines. Yampa Valley Data Partners Executive Director Kate Nowak said the mine’s economic impact in Routt County is significant. Using the estimated wage of a typical miner working at Twentymile, she calculated that the mine’s Routt County employees have annual disposable incomes of $12 million after state and federal taxes. Nowak said $5.8 million of that total is spent locally each year, creating 21 jobs and
$442,000 in sales tax revenue. “I would say this is a nice impact of just one company in Routt County,” Nowak said. Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said Twentymile Coal Co. pays a wage that sets a high standard when comparing wages at other companies. The jobs not only pay well, he said, but also are stable and can turn into careers for many of the workers. “I think that’s one of the biggest things is they provide longterm stability to our community,” Monger said.
Staying safe After driving down the ramp into the mine, the only things lighting the tunnel shaft are the headlights from the pickup driven by Pat Sollars, general manager of Peabody Energy’s Colorado operations. To prevent coal dust explosions, the tunnels are lined with white rock dust made of crushed limestone. Along either side are small doors that keep an airtight seal to control the ventilation in the tunnel. Old mining sections are sealed off and the massive conveyor system runs in an adjacent tunnel. Throughout the tunnels are large stashes of oxygen should something terrible happen. None of this is new to most of the people touring the mine on this day in early January, but even after 36 years of mining, safety specialist Mark Gannon thinks the same sobering thought when heading underground. “Usually, I think of the family and hope I get out of here because that’s our goal,” Gannon said. High-profile mine accidents occasionally capture the attention of the world. That attention never has been focused on Twentymile Mine, which never has had a fatality in its 30 years of operation.
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By the numbers Twentymile Mine production 2011: 7,748,909 tons 2010: 7,725,525 tons 2009: 7,827,079 tons 2008: 8,004,176 tons 2007: 8,290,894 tons 2006: 8,549,845 tons 2005: 9,369,969 tons 2004: 8,557,745 tons 2003: 8,127,386 tons 2002: 7,573,438 tons 2001: 7,709,874 tons Source: Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety
Twentymile maintains a safety record recognized industrywide, and the mine is in the running for having the best safety record of any Peabody Energy underground mine in the United States in 2012. During the year, the mine had two 100-plusday streaks without a reportable injury. “We’re kind of proud of it,” safety manager Mike Crum said. In 2012, there were 0.92 incidents per 200,000 hours worked at Twentymile Mine. It is a new record for the mine and represents an incident rate significantly lower than the industry average, which was 3.38 in 2011, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Being safe is ingrained into the minds of miners, who wear hard hats, eye protection, steeltoed boots and highly reflective clothing. On their belts is an emergency air supply that is equipped with a tracking device. If a tragedy such as a fire were to occur and result in fatalities, brass tags worn by the miners would make it possible to identify their bodies. Those tags also are a reminder that despite the mine’s safety record, it can be dangerous work. Everyone who enters the mine
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Get the facts In 2010, Colorado had an average of 1,758 underground mining employees and 489 surface mining employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration. In 2011, the number for underground employees jumped to 1,927, a 9.6 percent increase, and surface mining employees fell to 478, a 2.2 percent decrease.
Major U.S. coal producers, 2011 (Company, production in thousand tons, percent of total production) 1. Peabody Energy, 202,237, 18.5 percent 2. Arch Coal Inc., 160,279, 14.6 percent 3. Alpha Natural Resources LLC, 116,394, 10.6 percent 4. Cloud Peak Energy, 95,596, 8.7 percent 5. CONSOL Energy Inc., 62,089, 5.7 percent
After coal is mined and processed, it is ready to be shipped to market. The cost of shipping coal can be more than the cost of mining it. About 71 percent of coal in the United States is transported, for at least part of its trip to market, by train. Coal also can be transported by barge, ship, truck and even pipeline. Coal is mined in 25 states. Wyoming mines the most coal, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Texas. Coal mainly is found in three large regions, the Appalachian Coal Region, the Interior Coal Region and the Western Coal Region (includes the Powder River Basin). Coal miners use giant machines to remove coal from the ground. They use two methods: surface or underground mining. Many U.S. coal beds are near the ground’s surface, and about two-thirds of coal production comes from surface mines. Because of growth in surface mining and improved technology, the amount of coal produced by one miner in one hour has more than tripled since 1978. In 2011, the United States imported the most coal from Colombia — more than 9.5 million tons. In 2011, the United States exported the most coal to the Netherlands — more than 10.7 million tons.
Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration and U.S. Energy Information Administration
Sunday, January 20, 2013
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Overalls hang from the ceiling in the locker room at Twentymile Mine.
flips over a plastic card on a wall signifying he or she is working below ground. Then the workers load into pickups, enter the tunnel and follow the coal seam for about eight miles to a depth of 1,500 feet.
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Eight miles into the mine, more pickups and miners can be found around the longwall operation. It is the production hub of the mine and uses a shearer that moves as fast as 144 feet per minute along a 1,000-foot-long Nuclear machine packed with hydraulics. During each pass, the shearer 8% Coal 20% cuts the 9-foot height of the coal Renewable seam about 40 inches deep. energy* 9% Sollars, who has worked at the mine for 25 years, pulls back a wall of plastic and looks into Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration a cavern 9 feet tall that used to Strings Café is now contain coal. Sources of U.S. Electricity Generation, 2011 Open sound to thequickly Public A cracking is followed roofBefore collapsing. Join usby forthe Dinner the Show The group members-turn their Petroleum 1% Reservations 879-3504 heads from the ensuing dust Nuclear cloud. Sollars said the roof collapse 19% is a routine part of longwall mining. Natural The longwall is the sophisticated workhorse operated by an gas 25% Renewable eight-man crew. If new, the longenergy* 9% wall would cost $100 million to $150 million. “If our sales are up, we’ll run about 18 hours a day,” Sollars said. Coal 42% A wall of mist keeps coal dust from getting to the miners on the longwall. For extra protection, members of the eight-man crew working on the longwall use a special helmet with a mask that Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly funnels air past their faces to *Hydroelectric, biofuels, wind, waste, geothermal and solar keep them from inhaling dust. Nearby, a remote-controlled machine known as a continuDid you know? ous-miner is digging a new tunA pound of coal supplies enough electricity to power nel that the longwall will use ten 100-watt light bulbs for about an hour.
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Sunday, January 20, 2013
once it is finished with its current section. Lasers help keep the digging on course. “They are within inches after miles of cutting,” Sollars said. Like the longwall, coal from the continuous-miner is loaded onto a $50 million, 36,000-horsepower conveyor and sent to the surface. “The 8-mile trek out of the mine,” Sollars said. After the continuous-miner makes a cut, a two-man crew of roof bolters secures wire mesh to the ceiling to keep it from collapsing. It is labor-intensive work and considered by many to be the hardest job at the mine. All this is occurring under about 40 square miles of property owned by the mine. With all that land, Twentymile Coal Co. pays the most property taxes in Routt County, according to Assessor Gary Peterson. The Hayden Station coal-powered plant ranks second. Peterson said that during the 2012 tax year, Twentymile’s land had an assessed value of $166.5 million. Peterson said the company will pay property taxes of nearly $2.87 million this year. The South Routt School District is a major benefactor of the mine because 99.5 percent of the land lies within its district. Superintendent Scott Mader said 44.5 percent of the district’s property tax revenue comes from taxes paid by Twentymile. “By far, they are the largest,” Mader said. “It helps everyone else’s taxes by having a large mine like that.” The county’s share of tax revenue the mine paid in 2012 was about $587,740. Peterson said the Twentymile Mine tax revenue is especially significant to local government coffers because the land has not experienced the drastic decrease in value that residential properties here have seen since 2008. According to Peabody, Twentymile Mine’s total direct economic contribution annually is about $200 million and comes from wages and benefits, taxes,
state and federal royalty payments, capital investments and vendor contracts. For every one of those dollars spent, three additional dollars of indirect economic value are created for a total of $790 million in economic benefit, according to Peabody. “For one entity, they probably have more economic impact than the ski area, in my opinion,” Commissioner Monger said.
Charitable gifts Twentymile and its employees also have a significant impact on local charities. The company matches as much as $5,000 for each employee who gives to a qualified organization. In 2012, Twentymile Coal Co. matched $60,000 that its employees gave to the United Way organizations in Routt and Moffat counties. With the anticipated departure of TIC Holdings in Steamboat by the end of 2013, Twentymile and its employees are expected to be the top contributors to Routt County United Way, Executive Director Kelly Stanford said. “They have consistently been supporting us,” she said. “It’s a significant part of what we do.” Aside from employee matches, Twentymile Coal Co. gave an additional $70,000 in charitable contributions in 2012. This year, Peabody Energy plans to honor 10 to 12 teachers in Routt, Moffat and Eagle counties. On Jan. 10, Hayden Valley Elementary School kindergarten teacher Laura Voorhees became the first Routt County educator to be the recipient of one of Peabody’s $1,000 Leaders in Education award. In 2011, Peabody Energy gave a total of $9,548,000 in charitable contributions worldwide.
Looking to the future Despite ongoing efforts to create cleaner-burning coal, the industry isn’t immune from its critics and detractors, particularly environmental groups, the
Twentymile Coal Co. began construction of the new Sage Creek Portal in 2011.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and some politicians. The Sierra Club, for instance, considers coal to be the country’s dirtiest energy source, and it is the club’s goal to retire onethird of the nation’s more than 500 coal plants by 2020. In Colorado, the state’s Renewable Energy Standard will require 30 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The controversial Clean Air Clean Jobs Act signed by thenGov. Bill Ritter in 2010 could force three coal-powered plants on the Front Range to convert to natural gas. Coal, however, remains an abundant natural resource in Colorado. According to the Colorado Geological Survey, coal provides the fuel to generate about 68 percent of Colorado’s electricity, and an estimated 16 billion tons of coal that can be economically mined remain underground, placing Colorado eighth in the nation. At current production rates, there is enough coal in Colorado to last nearly 600 years, though production rates are expected to increase. There is about four years’ worth of coal to be mined from the existing portals at Twentymile Mine, Sollars said. Years ago, Twentymile officials began planning where to mine next and since have built the Sage Creek Portal. They also are in the early stages of getting approval for a 392-acre reservoir that would provide a reliable water source for mining operations. The Trout Creek Reservoir would store about 12,000 acre-feet of water and would cost an estimated $16 million to build. The reservoir would help support operations at Sage Creek Portal, which taps into the same
TWENTYMILE COAL CO./COURTESY
Colorado coal statistics for 2011 26,790,714
Total coal produced in tons
10,097,504 Total coal in tons sold in state
$20,985,580 Black Lung taxes
$4,456,162 Abandoned mine land fees
Total coal sold out of state
2,504 Number of employees
$24,012,765 Royalties paid to private landowners
Total payroll and benefits
Total taxes, royalties and payroll
$115,354 Average pay and benefits
$12,390,748 Property taxes
$13,153,878 Severance and sales taxes
9- to 10-foot-high Wadge coal seam that Twentymile currently mines. It is estimated that the new portal can access an additional 105 million tons of lowsulphur coal. At current production rates, that would last about 13 years. Nettleton, Twentymile’s environmental manager, said the new portal represents a $200 million investment. Construction started in 2011 and much of the infrastructure is done, including tunnel entryways, a new substation and environmental controls. Some coal even has been produced, but Sollars said that was mined only to confirm what company officials had thought was down there. Twentymile executives had hoped to move their longwall operation and fully transition
$1,061,131,580 Total sales value of production
1,960,284 Total coal in tons sold outside U.S. Source: Colorado Mining Association Survey of Coal Producers (2011)
production to the new portal by 2015. That timeline has been pushed back because of a softening of coal sales in 2012, Sollars said. Work on the new portal will not resume until January 2014. Sollars said a number of factors impacted coal sales last year. “The lack of winter last year was a big one,” Sollars said. “Right now, natural gas prices are having an impact.” Construction and future production at the mine has been secured by a 16-year agreement with Hayden Station and export contracts. Sollars is confident the coal industry will continue to have a place in Routt County. “I hope so,” Sollars said. “Peabody has plans for it.” ■
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COAL MINER Carrying coolers and wearing company-issued overalls and helmets, it’s hard to dis-
tinguish a laborer, an engineer or a former banker as they get ready to work 1,500 feet underground. Historical stereotypes no longer fit modern-day miners. “I really think it’s different now,” miner John Papierski said. “You have people from every walk of life here. It’s not the high school dropouts or the guys that don’t know where else to go. There are a lot of educated people that work here.”
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ohn Papierski is not exactly the image that comes to mind when one thinks of a coal miner. The 48-year-old Illinois native said that when he was growing up, he was expected to go to college, and his father made him go. Papierski attended school on a baseball scholarship and earned degrees in marketing and business management. After graduating, he landed a job with 3M that lasted one year. “I wore the suit,” Papierski said. “It just wasn’t for me.” He moved to Craig 20 years ago and worked as a hunting outfitter until five years ago. “It was a great job and everything, but I was looking for something that was more stable, and I heard such great things about Twentymile” Coal Co., Papierski said. With a wife and two children, he also was looking for good benefits. The job fit. “I wanted to go to a place where I could stay
and retire at,” Papierski said. When he first started four years ago, he worked on a bull gang tasked with doing preparation for the continuous-miner operation that creates the network of tunnels at Twentymile Mine. “It’s construction, just undergound,” Papierski said. “After a couple of days, you don’t feel like you’re underground anymore.” Today, he does maintenance on the continuous miner machines. “I used to get yelled at for breaking the stuff,” Papierski said. “Now, I’ve got to fix it.” Papierski said his job pays well and offers limitless opportunities to work overtime. He works three 13-hour shifts each week, which gives him four days to be outside and with family. “Really, right now, I don’t think you can find a better job as a family person,” Papierski said.
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Sunday, January 20, 2013
teamboat Springs resident Adam Patterson hadn’t planned on being an eighthgeneration coal miner. “It’s not something I’ve always wanted to do, but once I saw the opportunities in the coal industry, it just made sense to me,” said Patterson, 25. Before starting at Twentymile 3 1/2 years ago, Patterson earned a degree in mine engineering from West Virginia University. In addition to laborers, mines require a staff of highly educated professionals who are tasked, in part, with planning where and how to dig, controlling roof stability and making sure the ventilation system meets rigid safety requirements. “It’s definitely challenging, and every day is different,” Patterson said. He typically gears up and goes
underground once per week to work on various projects. On a recent day in January, Patterson was surveying a ventilation system to make sure it was performing as it had been designed. His black face was evidence that being an engineer doesn’t mean working behind a desk. Patterson said he was fortunate to get a degree in engineering, and he recognizes the many hard-working colleagues underground who did not have such an opportunity. “There are a lot of people that work underground that are definitely smarter than I am,” Patterson said. Still early in his career, Patterson envisions many opportunities for advancement. He sees a future with Peabody Energy. “I’ll finish my career in mining, no doubt,” Patterson said.
ennis Bouwens had planned on being ty coordinator and spends 90 percent of his time an architectural engineer but ended up above ground. spending his career as a miner. “There is a satisfaction in coal mining,” BouAt the end of his senior year at Basalt wens said. “Without coal, we wouldn’t have the High School in 1968, Bouwens needed to save ability to turn on the light switch.” money for school and was working graveyard His two sons also work at the mine. One went mining shifts. to school to be a teacher. The other went to “I slept a lot in school,” said Bouwens, 63. police academy. Then he met a girl, and “The decision, I guess, was instead of going away to colthe benefits of coal mining “There is a satisfaction in coal lege, he accepted a position outweigh what they went to mining. Without coal, we wouldn’t as a full-time miner. Now 45 school for,” Bouwens said. have the ability to turn on the light years later and with that girl That is a recurring theme switch.” out of the picture, he doesn’t with modern miners, who regret the decision. operate sophisticated longwall “I decided the career of a coal miner wasn’t equipment worth upward of $150 million. Bouas bad as I assumed it would be,” Bouwens wens said today’s miners are professionals much said. like lawyers and doctors. He began working at Twentymile in 1987 and, “There is a lot of hard labor, but the equipthroughout the years, has had a number of jobs ment is more modern than what it was 20 or 30 there, including assistant mine manager, foreyears ago,” Bouwens said. “They worked very man, supervisor on the longwall and a continuhard back then, and the employees now work ous-miner operator. Today, he is a technical safe- smart.”
ordan Gustafson wasn’t raised to be a miner, but he represents the third generation of his family to be one. Gustafson’s father and grandfather worked in mines, and when he was 10, his family moved to Craig. He started working at Twentymile with his dad soon after graduating high school in 2001. “I went to college for a semester, and it didn’t really work out,” Gustafson said. The 30-year-old has been working on the longwall ever since. He said the job pays well, which allows him to support his wife, Ellie, who stays home with their 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Olivia. “It’s a good job,” Gustafson said.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Coal production in the U.S. by county in 2011 Campbell County, Wyo., produces more coal than anywhere else in the U.S. More than 389 million tons of coal came from the 11 mines in Campbell County in 2011. The 7.74 million tons from Routt County in 2011 all came from Twentymile Mine.
Glossary Barge Long and large, usually flat-bottomed boat that is unpowered and towed by other boats or ships, used for transporting goods
Bitumen A mixture containing hydrocarbons — often produced by the processing of coal or oil — used in asphalt or tar for road surfacing or waterproofing
Bituminous Type of coal with carbon content from 45 to 86 percent and heat value of 10,500 to 15,500 BTUs per pound; most plentiful form of coal in U.S.; used primarily to generate electricity and make coke for steel
Coke 1 to 1,999 tons
A hard, dry substance containing carbon that’s produced by heating bituminous coal to a high temperature in the absence of air
2,000 to 6,999 tons
A continuous moving belt that transports large volumes of material
7,000 to 19,999 tons
20,000 to 49,999 tons 50,000 tons or more
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration MICHAEL SCHRANTZ/STAFF
Leaving no lump behind Longwall mining takes all the coal from the targeted area and leaves none behind to support the rock above.
Series of parallel navigation tunnels dug by continuous-mining machines Held up by unmined pillars of coal; carry people, coal, and air-exchange systems
Machine chews coal from the front and spits it onto conveyor belts
Large area of coal to be removed entirely; no pillars are left to hold up the mine’s roof, which is allowed to collapse
Removes average of 22,000 tons of coal each day.
Pillar of coal
Shearer Slices back and forth across the coal face like a deli meat slicer, dropping coal onto a conveyor Mines 1,000 feet, then slices back in the other direction
Conveyor As shearer moves back and forth, the machines and the miners move with it, and the roof collapses behind them
Shield © 2008 MCT Source: Consol Energy, Joy Mining Machinery Graphic: Alan Baseden, Philadelphia Inquirer
Holds up the mine’s roof as the shearer cuts
Armored face conveyors
AFCs are joined together in a long chain to make the conveyor
Type of mine created to access coal buried deep underground, characterized by a set of shafts dug straight down to the coal
tured on a conveyor. he longwall operation Longwall panels are three at Twentymile Coal Co. miles long, and a 50-foot section removes an average of is removed each day. 22,000 tons of coal from The longwall is composed the mine each day. of 2-meter shields weighing 38 Sections of coal to be mined by the longwall are called panels. tons each. The purpose of the shields is to support the weight Imagine the longwall operof the roof, and Sollars said ation like a lawn mower the each shield is capable of supwidth of a football field that in porting 1,300 one swoop tons. As the is removing “We have people from all over longwall and coal from the world that come to see the shields move one end zone longwall moved.” forward, the and trav— Pat Sollars roof safeeling up ly collapses three miles’ behind the shields. worth of yard lines to the other If coal sales are up at Twenend zone. More than 10,000 tymile, Sollars said the longhorsepower are attached to the wall will run for 18 hours each machine. day. The longwall and panels at He said the longwall is taken Twentymile are 1,000 feet wide apart and moved to a new panel with a shearer that passes along about every six months. In 2012, the width of the panel. With the longwall was moved three each pass, the shearer cuts 40 times. inches of coal from the face of When the longwall is not runthe seam. It also cuts the height ning, the mine is not making of the seam, which is nine to 10 money so they try to move fast. feet tall. The record time at Twentymile Pat Sollars, general managfor breaking down the longwall er of Peabody Energy’s Coloand setting it back up is 10 3/4 rado operations, said the sheardays. er can move along the face at a “We have people from all over top speed of 144 feet per minute. the world that come to see the As the longwall moves forward longwall moved,” Sollars said. ■ through the panel, coal is cap-
A large machine used in the surface mining process to remove overburden, or layers of earth and rock, covering a coal seam
Type of mine created to access coal seam exposed by the slope of a mountain, characterized by an entrance that is a horizontal tunnel into the seam of coal
Fossil fuels Naturally occurring fuels of an organic nature, such as coal, crude oil and natural gas
Greenhouse effect A warming of the earth produced by the presence of certain gases in the atmosphere
Overburden Layers of earth and rock covering a coal seam
Peat Partially carbonized vegetable material, usually found in bogs
Reclamation The process of restoring a surface mine site to its original contour, function and appearance, thus “reclaiming” it
Slurry A mixture of water and any of several finely crushed solids, especially cement, clay or coal
Surface mine Type of mine created to access coal seam close to the ground’s surface, characterized by a scraping away of topsoil and overburden followed by direct digging of the coal
Coal industry in Routt County