A mine's progress

Posted November 8, 2010

By Michael Bradwell

TRIADELPHIA, W.Va. - When Tunnel Ridge Mine begins the first phase of longwall operations in Ohio County, W.Va., a year from now, it will reach across the Pennsylvania line into Donegal Township.


But mine officials said last week that intensive mining on the Pennsylvania side won't begin until 2023.

The information was part of a two-hour tour of the newest mine under development by Tulsa, Okla.-based Alliance Coal, which in 1999 purchased 65,000 acres of land in the Pittsburgh Eight coal seam that straddles the West Virginia-Pennsylvania line, of which 40,000 acres hold proven coal reserves.

"We'll touch Pennsylvania with the first (longwall) panel by the end of 2011," said Dwight Kreiser, vice president of Alliance's Northern Appalachian division.

Kreiser could not provide an exact amount of acreage that lies in Pennsylvania, but a shaded map of the reserves in the administration building showed them to be nearly equally divided between the two states. Kreiser said the first two phases of mining will occur mostly in West Virginia, with a third phase of mining in Pennsylvania expected to begin in 2023, followed by a fourth phase.

Alliance, which operates nine underground mines in the Midwest and is the fifth largest coal producer in the East, began developing the first phase in November 2009. On Thursday, officials showed the progress with a partially constructed new portal with elevator, bathhouse and a finished 1.5-mile overland conveyor that will move freshly mined coal to a recently completed prep plant capable of handling 1,800 tons per hour.

As part of the $300 million investment Alliance is making in Tunnel Ridge, a 10,000-foot belt takes the final product through a "clean coal tunnel" to an Ohio River loadout site that the company has completely rebuilt on the site of a former loading terminal that has been closed since the early 1980s.

"This will expand; we're still in the construction phase," Kreiser said, noting that two new coal storage silos will be built in addition to the existing one that was rehabilitated.

Alliance's output, which is projected to be 5 million tons of steam coal per year, will go to power plants along the Ohio River, according to Ted Norris, vice president of Alliance's Eastern Division.

"We've secured coal sales under contracts for the next 10 years," Norris said, adding that the mine, which began producing with continuous mining machines in late March, will hire 112 people by the end of this year and another 232 by the end of 2011.

Norris noted that coal remains one of the most cost-effective ways of providing power.

He said a recently approved $6 billion California solar energy project will provide 1,000 megawatts of power.

"But our $300 million investment will provide enough fuel to produce 1,500 megawatts," he said.

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