Peabody Energy’s Foidel Creek Mine in western Routt County is the most productive coal mine in the state in terms of annual tonnage. Last year, the mine produced 7.7 million tons of coal.

Photo by John F. Russell

Peabody Energy’s Foidel Creek Mine in western Routt County is the most productive coal mine in the state in terms of annual tonnage. Last year, the mine produced 7.7 million tons of coal.

Twentymile jobs decrease by more than 50 in 2010 in Routt County

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By the numbers

Foidel Creek Mine is the state’s highest-producing coal mine by annual tonnage. Foidel Creek Mine produced:

2010: 7.7 million tons

2009: 7.8 million tons

2008: 8 million tons

2007: 8.3 million tons

2006: 8.5 million tons

2005: 9.4 million tons

2004: 8.5 million tons

2003: 8.1 million tons

2002: 7.5 million tons

Energy education plan

Yampa Valley Partners and the Northwest Colorado Energy Steering Committee are creating an energy education plan for Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties. Kate Nowak, of Yampa Valley Partners, said public meetings for feedback and discussion in each county are being planned for May.

The Steering Committee includes more than 20 regional community members and has been working on the plan since May 2010. The committee’s mission is “to educate, communicate and promote sustainable and energy efficient practices so that our tri-county area will utilize our resources effectively and benefit our local economies.”

Learn more online at www.yampavalleypartners.com, through the “Energy” pull-down menu.

Online

View reports from previous years at www.mining.state.co.us. Select “DRMS Reports” from the menu on the left side of the page, then, select “Coal Reports.”

— The number of miners at Twentymile Coal Co. decreased by more than 50 in 2010, reflecting a coal industry that some say is facing shrinking demand and increased regulatory challenges.

A report by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety states that western Routt County’s Twentymile Coal Co., which is owned by Peabody Energy and operates the Foidel Creek Mine, saw a decrease from 484 miners in January 2010 to 432 miners by December. That’s a decrease of nearly 11 percent during the year and a decrease of 23 percent from a peak of 564 miners working for Twentymile in May 2009.

Peabody Energy officials could not be reached last week for comment on the mine’s employment figures.

Forrest Luke, environmental manager at Moffat County’s Trapper Mine, said the coal industry is facing impacts from increased Environmental Protection Agency regulations nationwide and state legislation adopted last year.

“I think both in Colorado and nationally, (the industry) is kind of looking at hard times — the market is shrinking,” Luke said last week. “From what I read and hear … the demand is flat at best for this year, and in some areas, it’s probably decreasing.”

Last year’s House Bill 1365, known as the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, sets emission-reduction standards to be met by 2017 and would, among other actions, convert or shut down some coal-fired Front Range power plants in favor of natural gas.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger is the chairman of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, which filed a lawsuit last month in Routt County District Court against the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The lawsuit asks for an independent judicial review of House Bill 1365, which Monger said has not included an adequate study of the bill’s impacts on energy-producing communities.

According to state reports, 432 miners is an employment level not seen by Twentymile since November 2005. Numbers came close to that low in December 2007, when Twentymile reported 455 miners.

Kate Nowak is the executive director of Yampa Valley Partners, which prepared a recent economic report that included Twentymile statistics. She speculated that the mine’s decrease in employment could be the result of Twentymile’s recent move of its longwall, the mine’s primary coal production machinery.

Brian Bradbury, employment specialist at the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center, said he couldn’t comment specifically about whether people from Twentymile have walked through his doors — he can’t comment about unemployment tied to any specific business, he said — but he did say that overall, out-of-work woes are not easing in Steamboat.

“We’re still seeing new claims, just as strong as always — it hasn’t reduced itself at all,” Bradbury said Thursday. “We get a lot of people in here every day.”

Bradbury reminded job-seekers that his office in the Sundance at Fish Creek shopping center on Anglers Drive offers a hotline to state employment officials every Wednesday on a first-come, first-served basis.

Information also is available through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, at www.colorado.gov/cdle.

Production decline

In December, Nowak said, Twentymile accounted for about 24 percent of Colorado’s total coal production, a statistic known as market share.

“Normally, we are anywhere from 28 to 32 percent market share — so it is down a little bit but not that significant,” Nowak said. “Employment certainly has been down.”

Production at the mine has decreased each year since 2005.

Foidel Creek Mine, the state’s highest-producing coal mine by annual tonnage, produced about 7.7 million tons of coal in 2010. That’s compared with about 7.8 million tons in 2009, about 8 million tons in 2008 and nearly 8.3 million tons in 2007, according to state reports.

The mine produced more than 8.5 million tons of coal in 2006 and nearly 9.4 million tons in 2005, a peak that followed production of about 8.5 million tons in 2004 and about 8.1 million tons in 2003.

The mine’s 2010 coal production was lower than it’s been for any year since 2002, when Twentymile produced more than 7.5 million tons of coal.

Twentymile is nearing the end of its access to the Wadge coal seam at the Foidel Creek Mine.

Monger said Thursday that the Routt County Road and Bridge Department is continuing to move forward with designs and roadwork related to Twentymile’s new Sage Creek Mine portal on Routt County Road 27, northwest of the existing mine.

Twentymile Coal Co. is Routt County’s largest taxpayer.

Monger said in November that the coal-mining industry brings about $14 million in annual property taxes to the county. Those dollars help fund school districts, fire districts and other governmental entities.

To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Fred Duckels 3 years, 7 months ago

Here in Ski Town we mostly shrug our shoulders and wonder what's the big deal? This is huge! Back in the fifties John L Lewis, the union president, kept striking until our mines mostly shut down. Customers gave up on coal and went to natural gas.This was followed by a decade of depression in the valley. The mines have less affect today but what will the tax loss do? Today groups constantly squabble to spend on their pet projects but in the future that money may be needed for necessities. Is Doug Monger the only one to see the poroblem?

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