Coal production in Colorado drops in 2013
The effects of mining problems and a soft market have hit the coal mining sector in Colorado hard in the first six months of the year according to figures released by the state.
Production for the first six months was down 20 percent, to 11.45 million st, compared with the same period in 2012, according to state figures.
Five of Colorado’s nine operating coal mines reported production declines. Two mines that produced coal in 2012 are not operating this year, the Denver Post reported.
“We’ve had mines with operating challenges, but the market has not been that good,” Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association told the Denver Post.
The two largest production cuts came at Oxbow Mining LLC's Elk Creek Mine and Arch Coal Inc.’s West Elk Mine. Both mines are in Somerset.
There was a 78 percent drop in production — a cut of 1 million tons — at the Elk Creek Mine, which was hit by a fire.
For St. Louis-based Arch, a weak coal market is figuring into its operations.
“We’re running at lower volume levels in all operating regions due to current market conditions,” Arch spokeswoman Kim Link said in an email to the Denver Post.
Arch’s West Elk Mine reported a drop of a little under a million tons in production to 2.8 million st, according to state figures.
Since 2007 U.S. coal consumption is down 24 percent as utilities switched to cheap and cleaner-burning natur al gas.
Facing new federal clean-air regulations, utilities retired a record 57 aging, coal-fire power plants in 2012 to cut pollution, according to federal Energy Information Administration.
In 2015, another 61 coal-fired units are set to close, the EIA said.
Colorado production reached 28.8 million tons in 2012, according to state data.
“Government regulation and uncertain markets are taking a toll,” Sanderson said.