Ugs Compiles 2004 Coal Data
Coal production in the Castle Valley region and at locations across Utah dropped for the third straight year to 21.8 million short tons in 2004, the lowest level reported statewide since 1993.
Temporary closures at the local Skyline and Emery mines played a major role in the decreased production level.
Reduced mining activities at different coal operations due to labor problems, difficult mining conditions and multiple longwall shifts with related development work also contributed to the drop in last year's production, indicates the latest coal report compiled by Utah Geological Survey.
Consequently, the distribution of Utah coal dipped to 22.8 million short tons in 2004 and several industrial consumers had to look outside the state to supply needs.
The situation increased the amount of coal imported into Utah to 3.2 million short tons for a new record high, noted the 2004 report.
In addition, the number of coal-related employees working at mines in the Carbon-Emery area and at locations statewide dropped to 1,523, the lowest level experienced in more than 25 years.
Last year, coal mining productivity dropped to the lowest level posted statewide since 1997.
The only positive highlight encountered by the coal industry during 2004 was the fact that prices increased to an average of $17.70 per short ton, up from $16.64 in 2003, indicated the report.
The 2003 figure represented the lowest coal price in nominal dollars recorded in the last 30 years.
Fortunately, 2005 should mark the beginning of a significant resurgence in the coal industry in Castle Valley and at locations across Utah, predicted the analsysis.
Operators expect total coal production to climb to 24.4 million short tons in 2005 and increase to 27.5 million short tons in 2006, which would set a state production record, explained the UGS 2004 analysis report.
The increase will result from the reopening of the Skyline and Emery mines and other operations are expected to ramp up production.
Coal-related employment in 2005 is projected to increase by 236 people to a total of 1759 employees and the average price of Utah coal is expected to increase to $18.98 per short ton.
Production increases in 2005 will also lead to an increase in Utah coal distribution, expected to total 25.7 million short tons, and result in an associated decrease in imports
Production and employment levels could increase even further in the near future if the proposed Lila Canyon and Columbia mines in the Book Cliffs field start operation.
Lila Canyon mine could start operating in 2006, while the reopening of the Columbia mine is slated for 2007, forecast the UGS report.
Operators planning to open the two mines in the Castle Valley region hope to produce 2.0 to 5.0 million short tons per year at full capacity. Each of the local mining operations expect to employ roughly 200 to 250 workers.
The number of active coal mines in Utah decreased from 14 to 13 as Whisky Creek closed operations. The number of employees working in the mining industry decreased slightly from 1,583 to 1,523. In last year's report, the fate of the Skyline mine was uncertain, causing concern over reduced production and employment. However, as Skyline mine dropped employees, the Emery mine was increasing operations, resulting in only a modest overall decline of 60 employees between 2003 and 2004.
Coal-related employment totals are projected to increase by 236 workers in 2005 due to the reopening of the Skyline mine and continued hiring at the Emery mine. Employment totals could increase by another 200 to 300 people in 2006 and 2007 if the proposed Lila Canyon and
Columbia mines come online.