James River Coal unit permits new West Virginia mines

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said in an April 3 public notice that the Hampden Coal Co. LLC unit of James River Coal (NASDAQ:JRCC) has filed an application for a mine permit on a 166-acre surface job in Mingo County.

The permit, S500211, would cover surface and highwall mining in the Alma, Kanawha, Cedar Grove and Peerless seams of coal. The proposed operation would discharge site water into various tributaries of the Guyandotte River and is located 1.6 miles northeast of Gilbert in Mingo County. The DEP database shows that this permit application was filed in April 2011 for the Harry’s Branch strip job. The public notice marks the fact that the application is now administratively complete, which is a relatively early stage of the permitting process.

Hampden Coal had three other mine permit applications pending with the DEP as of April 3:

  • a March 2010 application for the 490-acre Canebrake Contour strip job, located near Gilbert in Logan County;
  • an October 2010 application for the 39-acre Pound Mill strip job, located near Man in Logan County; and
  • an October 2011 application for the Henry’s Branch #3B mine, a room-and-pillar job working the 2 Gas coal seam at a site near Gilbert in Mingo County.

“The Hampden Coal Complex is located in Mingo and Logan counties in southern West Virginia,” said the March 1 annual Form 10-K report filed by James River Coal. “The underground operations use room-and-pillar mining to produce metallurgical coal from the 2 Gas and Lower Cedar Grove seams. The surface mine produces metallurgical and steam coal from the Alma seam. Coal is processed at the Hampden Preparation Plant and loaded into railcars via 2 CSX load-outs and 1 Norfolk Southern Load-out.  As of December 31, 2011, we employed approximately 433 mining and support personnel at this complex.”

The Hampden Coal operation came to James River Coal in the April 2011 acquisition of International Resource Partners LP and its subsidiary companies. The IRP acquisition greatly increased the James River Coal presence in metallurgical coal production. IRP produced and sold various grades of met and steam coal from underground and surface mining operations in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. IRP’s customer base consisted of domestic steel and coke producers, international steel producers and domestic electric utilities. At the time of the IRP acquisition, IRP operated nine mines, including five deep and four surface mines.

In 2010, IRP produced about 1.9 million tons of coal, including 1.2 million tons of met coal and 0.7 million tons of steam coal. Total 2010 shipments, including coal purchased for blending purposes, were 3.7 million tons. These tons included 2.6 million tons of met coal and 1.1 million tons of steam coal. As of the end of 2010, IRP controlled about 136 million tons of coal reserves and resources, consisting of around 61 million tons of met coal and an estimated 75 million tons of steam coal.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.