Production efficiency levels dip at local, state coal mines
Production efficiency levels at mining operations in the Castle Valley region and across Utah decreased in 2007, dropping from 6.1 short tons per employee per hour in 2006 to 5.8 tons per employee hour in 2007.
The decrease was the result of lower overall extraction and the significant number of worker hours recorded at non-producing mines, including Crandall Canyon and Aberdeen, noted the latest coal distribution and outlook report compiled by the Utah Geological Survey.
The SUFCO mine remained the state's most productive coal operation in 2007.
SUFCO produced 8.5 tons per employee-hour, significantly less than 2006's 11.9 tons per employee hour.
West Ridge and Dugout followed in second and third, producing 8.3 and 7.6 tons per employee-hour respectively.
At mines with only continuous miner equipment, Emery led the way with a productivity of 2.9 tons per employee-hour.
Projections for Utah in 2008 indicate an increase to 6.6 short tons per employee per hour due to declining employment, but steady production rates, pointed out the UGS report..
On average, an individual employee produced 12,900 tons during 2007, down from 13,100 tons in 2006.
Utah's most productive year was in 2002 when productivity reached 7.7 tons per employee-hour and each employee produced an average of 16,600 tons.
Mines operating on United States Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service mineral leases accounted for 12.7 million short tons or 52.4 percent of the state's total coal production in 2007.
The percentage has steadily decreased since 2004, when production on federal leases made up 92.9 percent of total coal production statewide.
The UGS analysts expect the level to decrease in 2008 to 48.5 percent.
The steady decline is the result of many operators moving production to state leases during the last four years, explained the Utah Geological Survey report.
Mines operating on state lands within Utah's boundaries supplied a record 9.6 million short tons of coal in 2007, exceeding 2006's production level by 37.1 percent.
The mines extracting coal on state lands accounted for 39.5 percent of Utah's total production, up from 26.8 percent in 2006 and 10.9 percent in 2005.
The increase was the result of steady longwall production from Deer Creek's state-owned Mill Fork tract as well as significant increases in state production at Dugout Canyon, West Ridge and SUFCO, note the UGS report.
Production on state lands is projected to increase in 2008 to about 11.5 million short tons or 45.2 percent of Utah's total.
Dugout mine expects to produce roughly 90 percent of the company's coal from state lands and additional increases are anticipated at SUFCO and West Ridge, according to UGS analysts.
Production on private fee land climbed from 1.7 million short tons in 2006 to 2.0 million tons in 2007, accounting for 8.1 percent of the statewide total.
Fee coal in 2007 was produced from the Emery, Aberdeen and Bear Canyon mines.
Coal produced on private land is expected to decrease to 1.6 million short tons in 2008 due to the idling of the Aberdeen mining operation.
During 2007, seven longwall mining machines produced 19.1 million short tons of coal, accounting for 78.6 percent of total Utah production.
SUFCO mine installed a new longwall machine which commenced operation in February 2007.
Bear Canyon mine rehabilitated and installed a used longwall machine last November.
The remaining 21.4 percent of state coal production came from 21 continuous mining machines.
The processing of waste coal piles at the closed Sunnyside and Star Point mines is not generally considered mining, but rather reclamation activity, continued the UGS report.
Fluidized-bed combustion technology allows discarded wash-plant waste and coal refuse to be used as fuel at the Sunnyside Cogeneration power plant.
Annual waste coal consumption at the Sunnyside facility averages roughly 450,000 short tons, indicated the UGS analysts.