Power outage shuts down mining operations at Twentymile Coal Co. | SteamboatToday.com

Power outage shuts down mining operations at Twentymile Coal Co.

Brent Boyer

A transformer fire burns at the Twentymile Coal Mine electrical substation Tuesday night. West Routt Fire Protection District firefighters knocked down the blaze in about 20 minutes.

— Mining operations at Twentymile Coal Co. have been temporarily suspended while officials there work to fix a blown transformer that caught fire Tuesday night and cut electricity to the mine.

"We're working to get the mining operations up and running as soon as possible," Twentymile Coal Co. spokeswoman Beth Sutton said Wednesday. "We believe this is a short-term issue."

Sutton declined to provide an estimate of when mining operations might resume.

A transformer at the mine's electrical substation blew Tuesday night after an animal, likely a marmot, climbed onto it. The West Routt Fire Protection District and the Routt County Sheriff's Office were called to the mine at about 9 p.m. Tuesday for a report of flames coming from the substation.

West Routt Fire Chief Bryan Rickman said the fire caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. He arrived on scene shortly after 9 p.m. and said his crews extinguished the fire by 9:30 p.m.

No one was injured as a result of the fire. West Routt Fire Protection District crews had to wait until the electricity was shut off going into the substation before they could douse the fire with water, Rickman said.

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"We didn't have any trouble at all knocking the fire down," he said. "But you can't fight the fire when electricity is still going into it."

Because the water pumps at the mine don't work when the power is out, Rickman said his team used one of Twentymile Coal Co.'s 10,000-gallon water wagons to fight the blaze.

Yampa Valley Electric Association spokesman Jim Chappell said YVEA provides the power to the substation at Twentymile Coal Mine, but that the mine owns the substation equipment, including the transformer.

Chappell said the Tuesday night incident tripped YVEA's power lines in the area. Officials isolated the outage and were able to restore electricity to most other YVEA customers in the area, Chappell said.

The coal mine, one of the most productive in the country, is operated by Peabody Energy under the subsidiary of Peabody Twentymile Mining LLC. The mine produced about 7.7 million tons of coal in 2010, and about 1.7 million tons of coal in the first quarter of 2011, according to reports filed with the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The mine has about 400 employees.

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