Metinvest unit seeks permit on new Kentucky coal mine

The Wellmore Coal Corp. unit of Metinvest BV is seeking a wastewater permit from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection on a new, 200.5-acre surface mine located about a mile east of Steele in Pike County.

The DEP on April 6 put the application, including an April 4 socioeconomic report written by the company, out for public notice. This project would continue about 10 mining jobs and would produce about 5.4 million tons of coal, making for gross taxable revenue of $431m, said the report. The project would also be covered under Kentucky Department for Natural Resources mine permit No. 898-0867.

Wellmore Coal Corp. has only one mine, the active Grapevine No. 1 deep mine in Pike County, currently listed under its name at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. The registration for that mine, by the way, was transferred on March 7 from Sapphire Coal Co., which is another unit of Metinvest’s United Coal subsidiary.

U.S. Office of Surface Mining data shows that the Kentucky DNR permit for this mine was issued in March and that on April 6, Surface Minerals Co. was listed as an operator on the site. MSHA data shows that Surface Minerals Co. is also controlled by Metinvest and has a number of mines in Virginia and one in Kentucky.

In 2009, United Coal became the North American subsidiary of Metinvest, an international, vertically integrated mining and steel group of 24 industrial companies leading the mining and steel industry of Ukraine and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Headquartered in Blountville, Tenn., United Coal operates six subsidiaries in three states, including Wellmore and Sapphire Coal.

“Sapphire Coal Company was formed in 2004 out of the former assets of Golden Oak Mining and Cook & Sons Mining in Letcher County,” said the Metinvest website. “Sapphire now employs more than 200 people and ships more than 1 million clean tons of coal a year. With operations located in Letcher and Knott counties, Sapphire’s primary focus is the production of high Btu steam coal from the traditional eastern Kentucky strata, including the Hazard, Amburgy, Elkhorn and Whitesburg seams.”

In 2006, United Coal purchased The Rapoca Group LLC, headquartered in Bristol, Va., and renamed the operation Wellmore Coal. Wellmore has both company-owned and contract operations that include deep and surface mines, said the website. Wellmore’s reserves, which total more than 55 million tons, are primarily mid- to high-vol metallurgical reserves and low-sulfur steam reserves in the Splashdam, Banner, Glamorgan, Jawbone and Hagy coal seams. Wellmore’s deep and surface mining operations are located throughout Buchanan, Tazewell and Dickenson counties in southwest Virginia, with additional reserves located in Pike County, Ky., and McDowell County, W.Va.

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.