|Coal piles up at the Aberdeen and Pinnacle mines, formerly operated by Andalex Resources and now operated by UtahAmerican Energy. Robert Murray, president and CEO of UtahAmerican's parent company, Murray Energy, told media last week that despite rumors of idling the mine, operations will continue.|
On Oct. 27, the Sun Advocate contacted Murray Energy Corporation regarding information of a possible idling at the company's Pinnacle and Aberdeen mines.
Formerly known as part of Andalex Resources' Tower division, the UtahAmerican Energy mines are located in the Coal Creek area about seven miles north of Price. Murray Energy purchased the Tower mines in mid August and has been operating them since.
In an interview last Friday, chairman and chief executive officer Robert Murray confirmed that the company was "reviewing the operation at the Tower mines in order to make a temporary assessment of construction efforts needed for determining the course of action to minimize the liberation of methane gas."
But during a later interview on Wednesday, the chairman and president indicated that the corporation currently has no plans to halt coal production at the two Utah American Energy mines.
Murray Energy is the largest independent, family-owned coal producer in the United States.
The coal companies operating under Murray Energy Corporation produced more than 20 million tons of coal in 2005 in five states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois and West Virginia. The firm has been intending on expanding to Utah for some time.
UtahAmerican's Tower division has been operating in the Book Cliffs coal reserve since 1980.
Conventional room and pillar techniques with continuous miners were used at the Carbon County operation until 1994, when a longwall mining system was installed.
The room and pillar production techniques continued until 2001, when the operation changed to continuous miners with mobile roof support technology.
A longwall mining system was reinstalled in 2004. The longwall cannot perform to the system's potential due to the gas emissions.
While Murray Energy is a significant player in the mining industry, the former Andalex operations will contribute significantly to the coal produced by the corporation's single company units.
Murray commented that he is optimistic about mining in the Castle Country area.
"I have been involved in mines in Utah since 1968," said Murray. "I plan to make the Tower mine our flagship mining operation in Utah," he continued.
In the same interview, Murray confirmed the corporation's continued interest in developing the Lila Canyon site.
"We have owned the Lila Canyon reserve for six years. However, there have been delays from the Utah Department of Oil, Gas and Mining and the radical Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance," noted Murray
In 2004, the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining granted UtahAmerican Inc. permit to mine coal in Lila Canyon.
SUWA appealed the decision to the oil, gas and mining board and the state agency revoked the Lila Canyon permit.
The division's previous action "was an abuse of discretion without substantial evidence in the record and is not in compliance with the procedures required by law," argued the wilderness alliance.
It is SUWA's position that Murray Energy and UtahAmerica Inc. provided the division with insufficient data to gain a permit.
"We would like to send our praise to the division staff for learning this lesson and standing up for public resources. Indeed, keeping a backbone and upholding the law in this political atmosphere is commendable. Apparently, the division has quit playing games with the company, now let's hope they continue to address the publics concerns," states SUWA's website
Murray Energy has applied for another permit to develop the Lila Canyon reserves.
In a speech presented at the College of Eastern Utah on Oct. 20, 2005, Murray addressed the position of SUWA.
"SUWA is dominated by absentee multi-millionaires, including their president, Hansjorg Wyss," contended Murray. "What right does this European gentleman have to capriciously delay an economic development project in an area in which mining has already occurred, and which project the people of Utah and Carbon and Emery counties want?"
"To me, it is time that the lawyers, politicians and anyone concerned about future jobs and quality of life in Utah start fighting back against SUWA and other elitist officers and financiers of this extremist and very detrimental organization," stated the corporation's president and chief executive officer.
In 2006, Murray supported state legislation that would have imposed new requirements on Utah corporations that initiate lawsuits under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Atomic Energy Act of 1964 or any of the 20 other federal environmental statutes referenced in the bill.
Introduced during the 2006 general session of the Utah Legislature, House Bill 100 is available online at utah.gov
The state legislation specifies that any Utah corporation filing a federal environmental action and "requesting a stay or an injunction to a new permit or approval" must "post a corporate surety bond or cash equivalent" in an "amount that will cover payment or reasonable foreseeable costs and damages suffered" by any person because of the delay caused by the environmental litigation.
Gov. Jon Huntsman's vetoed the bill after the legislation passed the Utah House of Representatives and Senate.
"I have great respect for the sponsors and proponents of HB-100 and admire their sincere desire to make our state a better place," explained the governor in a letter to Utah House speaker Greg Curtis and Senate president John Valentine.
"Nevertheless, consistent with my oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Utah, I cannot sign this bill into law," continued Huntsman's letter.
"The supremacy clause of the United States Constitution provides that laws enacted by Congress shall be the supreme law of the land and judges in every state shall be bound thereby. HB-100 conflicts with federal law inasmuch as it seeks to impose additional requirements, i.e.., bonding requirements, that are not imposed by and are not consistent with federal law," pointed out Huntsman's letter.
But Murray continues to challenge SUWA's actions.
"The radical Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, controlled by elitists from around the world, have continually interfered with our permitting. This keeps high paying jobs with great benefits from the people of Carbon and Emery County," concluded the corporation's chairman.