Twentymile Coal Company began construction of the new Sage Creek Portal in 2011.

Twentymile Mine/Courtesy

Twentymile Coal Company began construction of the new Sage Creek Portal in 2011.

Coal production down at Routt County's Twentymile mine

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— Routt County’s Twentymile Coal Co. in 2013 produced the least amount of coal since at least 2001.

Production in 2013 was 7.24 million tons, a 10 percent drop from the 7.97 million tons mined in 2012, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

Twentymile Coal Co. production

2013: 7,235,627 tons

2012: 7,974,732 tons

2011: 7,748,909 tons

2010: 7,725,525 tons

2009: 7,827,079 tons

2008: 8,004,176 tons

2007: 8,290,894 tons

2006: 8,549,845 tons

2005: 9,369,969 tons

2004: 8,557,745 tons

2003: 8,127,386 tons

2002: 7,573,438 tons

2001: 7,709,874 tons

Source: Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety

“Production at our operations fluctuates based on customer demand,” said Charlene Murdock, spokeswoman for Peabody Energy, Twentymile’s parent company.

Twentymile is not the only mine that has scaled back production because of customer demand. Coal production at Colorado mines was down 17 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2013, Colorado produced 23.79 million tons of coal.

“It has been a rough year and there were a number of factors,” Stuart Sanderson told the Denver Post. Sanderson is the president of the Colorado Mining Association.

Sanderson told the Post that cheaper natural gas was beating coal in the marketplace and policies at the state and local level hurt coal.

“The market was weak nationally and coal production was down nationally,” Sanderson said. “We slipped a little more.”

In 2013, mines in the United States produced nearly 984 million tons of coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That was 3.2 percent less than the 1.02 billions tons produced in 2012.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said the drop in production at Twentymile was “very concerning.”

Twentymile is the largest taxpayer in the county and the second-largest employer.

“Collectively, I think I can speak for all three county commissioners that we’re very supportive of Twentymile,” Corrigan said.

While commissioners do not have any control over the demand for coal, Corrigan said he does not think the industry is going to go away overnight.

“We certainly focus on that concept of maintaining a diverse economy, and we certainly hope Twentymile is a part of that for the foreseeable future,” Corrigan said.

Twentymile’s current workforce includes about 400 full-time employees with an additional number of contractors and temporary workers, Murdock said.

“We routinely let attrition adjust staffing to avoid impacts to our permanent workforce,” she said.

Twentymile has invested $200 million to build the Sage Creek mine portal that will allow them to some day mine an estimated 110 million tons of coal. In 2012, full-scale production at Sage Creek was expected to begin in 2015.

“Development of Sage Creek will continue to be evaluated as markets merit,” Murdock said.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, is expected to release its first quarter earnings April 24.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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