An aerial view of the SUFCO mine in eastern Sevier County.
The SUFCO mine in Sevier County is one of the states largest coal mines, and as such it provides the coal for power for a lot of the state.
SUFCO mine's general manager Ken May challenges anyone to think of things they use everyday that do not come from mining. And when one thinks of that, those items are very few. He says that if a person thinks about it mining and agriculture are absolutely essential to peoples everyday lives, and that coal is the most abundant energy source in the world. It is also the most affordable.
According to May, SUFCO mine employes 373 area residents, in addition to the 280 local truck drivers that haul from the mine on a daily basis. The mine loads 800 trucks per day, which is a total of 43 tons of coal per truck, and it was ranked the second safest mine in the nation last year, second only to another Arch Coal Utah mine, the Skyline mine. As a matter of fact, the two mines alternately take first and second place rankings for safe performance annually.
SUFCO is one of the safest mines in the entire United States and the largest producer of coal with a single longwall, and "while safer than perceived, the coal industry is committed to further improvements in safety," said May.
"We truly have a world class operation right here in Sevier County," said May. "SUFCO accomplished 100,000 injury-free man hours sixteen times since 1998. We get it. We understand how to work safely."
In fact, 'home safely...everyone, every day" is the mine's motto.
It is the oldest continuously operating coal mine in the western United States, operations began in 1941, and has won countless awards for safety and performance since that time. SUFCO is also consistently recognized for their environmentally conscious approach to their mining and have been awarded numerous Earth Day Awards and even the prestigious President's Environmental Award.
May says that coal is the dominant fuel source for electric generation in the United States, and the use of electricity from coal has grown 182 percent between 1970 and 2006.
Ninety-five percent of the world's known energy reserves are coal, and North America itself has tremendous reserves of coal; it has enough coal to last 200 years.
May stated that the growing economies of India and China are dependant on the cheapest source of energy (coal) and the U.S. could be energy efficient if we wanted to, but "we need to take the steps," he said. "Within the United States there is a plethora of energy resources: oil and gas, coal. There is all kinds of energy in the United States."
Ninety percent of Utah's power is generated from coal, and Sevier County's SUFCO mine produces one third of the total amount of coal produced in Utah.
"Coal is the cheapest, most abundant source of power," said May. "So let's keep doing it; let's keep these things going that are working for us."
He stated that clean coal technologies create jobs, increase energy security, and address climate concerns, and coal conversion technologies can help unlock coal's full potential.
"We've got a lot of good people who work hard," said May. "And without the cooperation of the local trucking companies, we'd have a hard time accomplishing what we do."
Arch Coal's SUFCO mine produced 13.1 million tons of coal in 2007 and according to May, the mine's long range plan is to keep on mining.
(Lora Fielding is the editor of the Salina Sun.)