Rhino’s Central Appalachia Mining unit nears coal mine permit

The Central Appalachia Mining LLC unit of Rhino Resource Partners LP (NYSE: RNO) is nearing a permit for a new surface mine, with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection saying in an April 12 public notice that the mine permit application for this project has been marked as technically complete.

The notice means the application is moving from an agency regional office to the DEP’s main office for final approval, with a final approval usually happening within a month or two of this move. The permit will cover 264.32 acres in order to surface, highwall and auger mine in the Williamson, Upper, Middle and Lower Cedar Grove, Upper Alma, Lower Alma and Pond Creek coal seams and all associated splits and riders of those seams. The proposed operation, to be called the Grapevine Fork mine, is located 3.5 miles southwest of Newtown in Mingo County. The permit application for this mine was filed in August 2008.

Some variation of “Grapevine” is a common name for a mine in this area, since Central Appalachia Mining has a 2008 mine permit from the DEP for the Grapevine East strip job, and a 2004 permit for the Grapevine South strip operation. Grapevine South is listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration under Rhino’s CAM Mining LLC unit, with production of 217,912 tons in 2011 and 406,351 tons in 2010.

The only other mine permit application that Central Appalachia Mining had pending with the DEP as of April 12 was filed in August 2011 for the 395-acre Millseat strip job, to be located near Edgarton in Mingo County. The company would use auger, contour and highwall mining methods at this site to work the Alma, Cedar Grove and Williamson coal seams.

The operations in Mingo County are within Rhino’s Tug River operation. “Our Tug River mining complex consists of property in Kentucky and West Virginia that borders the Tug River,” said Rhino’s March 15 Form 10-K report. “Our Tug River mining complex produces coal from one company-operated surface mine. Coal production from this mine is delivered by truck to the Jamboree loadout for blending and loading or to the Rob Fork facilities for processing, blending and loading. The Jamboree loadout is located on the Norfolk Southern Railroad and is a modern unit train loadout with batch weighing equipment. The Jamboree loadout is used primarily to process surface mined coal which is sold as steam coal to electric utilities. This mining complex produced approximately 0.3 million tons of steam coal and approximately 0.1 million tons of metallurgical coal for the year ended December 31, 2011. [W]e are currently constructing an additional preparation plant at our Tug River mining complex that we expect to be operating in the first quarter of 2012. This new preparation plant will allow us to discontinue our need to transport coal from this complex to our Rob Fork preparation plant, which we believe will provide us cost savings in future periods.”

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.