Belt collapse chokes off production at two huge coal mines

CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) reported July 30 that over the prior weekend, it incurred a structural failure on its newly-installed above-ground conveyor system at the Bailey Preparation Plant in southwestern Pennsylvania.

No one was injured. The belt system conveys coal from the Bailey and Enlow Fork longwall mines to the Bailey Preparation Plant, which processes coal for both mines, which were the two largest underground coal mines in the U.S. in 2011.

This complex is a huge source of Pittsburgh-seam coal for both domestic and export markets. Bailey produced 5.9 million tons in the first half of this year and 10.8 million tons in all of 2011, while Enlow Fork produced 5.2 million tons in the first half and 10.2 million tons in 2011, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data. Also, CONSOL is currently building the BMX project, which is basically a third longwall for Bailey that will add another 5 million tons per year of production at this complex.

CONSOL said it is conducting a thorough assessment of the belt collapse, although initial indications are that coal from the Bailey and Enlow Fork mines could be fully impacted for the next two weeks. If, at that time, one of the two collapsed belts is returned to service, the mines could operate at an estimated 60% of capacity. CONSOL said July 30 that it does not currently expect to curtail any domestic sales because all of the company’s other Pittsburgh-seam mines in Northern Appalachia are operating normally. Overseas shipments in the spot market, though, could be affected, the company noted.

Said CONSOL’s Feb. 10 annual Form 10-K report about belt installation work recently: “Construction of a new slope and overland belt at the Enlow Fork Mine in Pennsylvania began in 2010 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. Overland belt projects are expected to enhance safety, improve productivity, increase production and reduce costs. Modern conveyor systems typically provide high availability rates, thereby allowing mining equipment to produce at higher levels. Overland belts do not require the daily maintenance of the mine roof that underground haulage systems require allowing manpower to be reduced or redeployed to more productive work. Mine safety is expected to be enhanced by overland belts because older underground belt areas will be sealed. The total cost of the project is expected to be approximately $207 million of which approximately $28 million was incurred in 2011. As of December 31, 2011, total project-to-date expenditures were approximately $38 million.”

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.