Coal production down again at Twentymile Mine | CraigDailyPress.com

Coal production down again at Twentymile Mine

Matt Stensland

Twentymile Coal Company began construction of the new Sage Creek Portal in 2011.

— Coal production at Routt County's Twentymile Mine decreased again in 2014, along with the number of employees.

In 2014, the mine produced 6.66 million tons of coal, down 8 percent from 2013 when the mine produced 7.24 million tons.

The amount of coal produced in 2014 was the least amount produced in records going back to 2001.

Charlene Murdock, a spokeswoman for Twentymile's parent company Peabody Energy, said the drop in production was in response to customer demand.

"Many utilities across the U.S. made adjustments last year based on constrained rail service and moderate temperatures," Murdock said.

Twentymile currently has 335 full-time employees. At about the same time in 2014, Twentymile employed about 400 full-time employees. In addition, the mine employs temporary workers and hires contractors.

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"Attrition is routinely used to accommodate staffing changes, and we've been able to adjust naturally," Murdock said. "We continue to use contractors and temporary employees as needed."

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the decrease in the number of employees was concerning because the mine pays its employees well.

"Hopefully there is some leveling off here, we hope," Monger said.

Nationally, coal production in 2014 was about flat compared to 2013, with 996.6 million tons produced, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In Colorado, coal production was down 3.4 percent in 2014, with 22.98 million tons produced.

Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said the reduced demand for coal can be blamed on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules designed to curb the use of coal by energy companies. In Colorado, the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act passed by the state Legislature is negatively impacting coal demand, Sanderson said.

"The government is playing a major role in manipulating energy markets, and I think that is wrong," Sanderson said.

Sanderson said there is some good news for the coal industry.

"Globally, coal demand by 2030 is expected to rise by 49 percent," he said. "The developing world wants what we have, and that's access to affordable energy."

Twentymile was looking at the long term when it invested $200 million to build the Sage Creek mine portal that will allow them to some day mine an estimated 110 million tons of coal. In 2012, full-scale production at Sage Creek was expected to begin in 2015.

"The Sage Creek reserves offer flexibility for Twentymile to meet future customer needs, and development will continue to be evaluated as demand warrants," Murdock said. "At this point, Twentymile is advancing into the Wolf Creek extension, which provides a sufficient resource base to meet current demand."

In Moffat County, production at the Colowyo Mine increased 7.4 percent with 2.48 million tons of coal produced in 2014. Production at Trapper Mine was flat with 1.94 million tons produced in 2014.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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