Cliffs Natural Resources unit permits new W.Va. coal mine

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said Sept. 26 it has gotten an application from Cliffs Logan County Coal LLC for an Article 11/West Virginia National Pollutant Discharge Elimination water permit for a new mine.

The water permit is needed “in order to open and operate the Elklick Surface Mine, a surface mine operation utilizing area, contour & highwall mining methods in the Stockton, Coalburg, Lower Coalburg and Dorothy Coal Seams,” said a DEP public notice. “The operation will discharge treated and stormwater into unnamed tributaries of/and Dingess Branch, unnamed tributaries of/and Davy Branch, unnamed tributaries of/and Elklick Branch, all of Buffalo Creek; unnamed tributaries of/and Sycamore Creek, unnamed tributaries of/and Toney Fork; all of Huff Creek.” This mine site is located two miles southeast of Lorado in Logan and Wyoming counties.

DEP records show that a mine permit application for the 711-acre Elklick surface job was filed with the agency’s mining division in December 2010 and is still pending. Also pending at the mining division are two other applications from the company: a May 2009 application for the 764-acre Toney Fork No. 3 surface job in Boone County; and a November 2011 application on the Eagle No. 1 mine, a room-and-pillar job in the Eagle seam at a site along the Logan-Wyoming county line. 

Cliffs Logan County Coal has only one surface mine, called Toney Fork, currently listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, along with four deep mines.

This Cliffs Natural Resources unit produces both met and steam coals

Cliffs Logan County Coal is a unit of Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF), which said about this operation in its Feb. 16 Form 10-K annual report: “Cliffs Logan County Coal (CLCC) property is located within Boone, Logan and Wyoming counties in southern West Virginia. CLCC currently produces metallurgical and thermal coal from surface and underground mines that are served by a preparation plant and unit-train load out facility on the CSXT. Two underground mines, the Powellton No. 1 and Dingess-Chilton Mines, produce high-volatile metallurgical coal using room and pillar retreat mining methods using continuous miner equipment. The Toney Fork No. 2 surface mine, produces thermal coal with a combination of contour strip area mining and point removal methods.”

The Form 10-K added: “The Powellton and Dingess-Chilton mines have been in operation since 2008. Over the past four years, the Powellton mine has produced between 0.1 million and 0.7 million tons of coal annually and the Dingess-Chilton mine production has ranged from no production to 0.6 million tons of coal annually due to the ramp-up to full production. The Toney Fork No. 2 mine has been in operation since 2005. Over the past four years, the Toney Fork No. 2 mine has produced between 1.2 million and 1.5 million tons of coal annually. The Lower War Eagle and Elklick Chilton mines currently are under development and expected to produce approximately 0.2 million tons and 0.1 million tons, respectively, in 2012.”

MSHA data shows that War Eagle is currently active and that it got a production start in the third quarter of 2011 and produced 39,667 tons in the first half of this year. Elklick Chilton is still shown by MSHA as a new mine with no recorded production through the first half of this year.

Cliffs Logan County Coal has been seeking a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the surface impacts of the Eagle No. 1 deep mine. The Corps was taking public comment on the application until July 30. The project site is about 2 miles northwest of Cyclone in Wyoming County. Fill material would be placed into three stream channels within Corps jurisdiction related to a face-up area in the Eagle coal seam, one temporary valley fill and one in-stream sediment pond. The temporary valley fill would create a level area for deep mine support facilities. The temporary fill would be removed after the approximate 13-year life of this operation, the Corps said.

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.