Report: Oxbow cuts Elk Creek coal mine workforce due to fire

An Oct. 3 report from the Denver Business Journal said that due to a smoldering underground fire, Oxbow Mining LLC has laid off over half of the workers at its Elk Creek longwall mine in Gunnison County, Colo.

“We’ve laid off about 150 employees and kept 130 employees in order to continue mining,” said Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Oxbow Mining, as quoted in the report. Goldstein said that the company has decided to seal one part of the mine, which had elevated levels of carbon monoxide, which is an indicator that a fire is ongoing.

The mine’s longwall will be sealed in place, Goldstein said. “We cannot safely recover the longwall and don’t wish to put our employees at risk,” Goldstein said, also as quoted in the report.

The mine had a “geological occurrence” in December 2012, which led to a “spontaneous combustion issue,” Goldstein said. The company temporarily sealed a section of the mine in January 2013, trying to starve the fire of oxygen. But that didn’t work.

“We’re looking at trying to acquire another longwall machine,” Goldstein said. “Our intent is to keep the mine going.” The 130 employees that remain will use continuous miners to keep producing coal, he added.

U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that the Elk Creek mine’s customers earlier this year included the Gallatin, Colbert and Johnsonville power plants of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Alabama Power‘s Gaston plant. The mine produced only 324,219 tons in the first half of this year, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data. That follows output of 3 million tons in both 2011 and 2012, and 3.8 million tons in 2010.

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.