Learn more about the underground economic engine that is Routt County's Twentymile Coal Co.
Steamboat Springs resident Adam Patterson hadn’t planned on being an eighth-generation coal miner.
“It’s not something I’ve always wanted to do, but once I saw the opportunities in the coal industry, it just made sense to me,” said Patterson, 25.
Before starting at Twentymile 3 1/2 years ago, Patterson earned a degree in mine engineering from West Virginia University.
In addition to laborers, mines require a staff of highly educated professionals who are tasked, in part, with planning where and how to dig, controlling roof stability and making sure the ventilation system meets rigid safety requirements.
“It’s definitely challenging, and every day is different,” Patterson said.
He typically gears up and goes underground once per week to work on various projects.
On a recent day in January, Patterson was surveying a ventilation system to make sure it was performing as it had been designed. His black face was evidence that being an engineer doesn’t mean working behind a desk.
Patterson said he was fortunate to get a degree in engineering, and he recognizes the many hard-working colleagues underground who did not have such an opportunity.
“There are a lot of people that work underground that are definitely smarter than I am,” Patterson said.
Still early in his career, Patterson envisions many opportunities for advancement. He sees a future with Peabody Energy.
“I’ll finish my career in mining, no doubt,” Patterson said.