Steamboat Springs Officials of Peabody Energy confirmed Tuesday that an interim plan to resume longwall production at their Twentymile coal mine in western Routt County has received approval from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Twentymile stopped using its longwall mining machinery in early April after encountering “unforeseen geologic conditions.”
Peabody spokeswoman Meg Gallagher said the mine never shut down but continued mining coal with continuous mining equipment, which she described as a different kind of machinery than the longwall. Asked whether the geologic conditions that led to shutting down the longwall involved harder rocks, Gallagher did not elaborate.
“The plan is conditional on no further geologic difficulties in the affected area, and MSHA and the company will continue to monitor progress,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said that employment levels at the mine were not affected by the suspension of longwall operations and that no reductions are planned.
Colorado State Geologist Vince Matthews told the Steamboat Pilot & Today on March 29 that he contacted the geologist at Twentymile Coal Co. after a 2.8-magnitude earthquake was recorded at a depth of 1 kilometer at a fold in the rock layers at Tow Creek in the Twentymile Park area.
Matthews said he contacted the mine after surmising that the earthquake could have been triggered by mining activity. He also said the number of geologic faults that cut across that anticline in Twentymile Park suggest that a natural earthquake is possible.
“We have no information” about the earthquake, Gallagher said Tuesday.
For more details about the nature of the mine incident that led to the stop of longwall operations, pick up a copy of Thursday's Steamboat Today.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com