Engineering & Mining Journal

JUL 2017

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Page 29 of 91

NEWS - THIS MONTH IN COAL 28 E&MJ • JULY 2017 India, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia and China to take a more aggressive approach to building commercial units in their countries," said CEO Robin Eves. "We are looking forward to hosting them at our Test Plant in Oklahoma during the summer pri- or to its move to Wyoming in early fall." Coal Operator is Fined for Obed Mountain Mine Spill in Canada Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC (formerly known as Coal Valley Resources Inc.) plead- ed guilty in Alberta Provincial Court to two counts of violating the Fisheries Act. Judge C.D. Gardner sentenced the company to pay monetary penalties totaling $3.5 million. A portion of the fine ($1.15 million) will be placed into a trust to be managed by the University of Alberta to create the Alberta East Slopes Fish Habitat and Na- tive Fish Recovery Research Fund. A total of $2.15 million will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. On October 31, 2013, a dike that was holding back a large volume of waste wa- ter at the Obed Mountain mine failed, re- sulting in more than 670 million liters of contaminated water and sediment (made up of coal, clay and sand) spilling into the Apetowun Creek and Plante Creek and ad- ditionally impacting the Athabasca River. This case is an example of a success- fully coordinated multiyear joint investi- gation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Cana- da, and the province of Alberta. Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC pleaded guilty to one count of carrying on a work, undertaking or activity that resulted in in the harmful alteration or disruption, or the destruction, of fish habitat in contraven- tion of s.35(1) of the Fisheries Act; and one count of depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish in contra- vention of s.36(3) of the Fisheries Act. In addition to the penalties under the Fisheries Act, Prairie Mines & Roy- alty ULC has pleaded guilty to one count under Alberta's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. NMA Urges Reform of Broken Program for Abandoned Coal Mines The chief executive of the National Min- ing Association (NMA) representing the U.S. coal industry recently told a con - gressional panel that the federal program funded by the coal industry to help clean up old abandoned coal mines has been plagued by an inefficient structure and lax management leading to billions of dollars spent for other purposes. "Of the almost $11 billion that the coal industry has paid into the Aban- doned Mine Lands fund since its incep- tion in 1977, only $2.8 billion of the $8.5 billion spent to date from the fund has resulted in the reclamation of priority coal abandoned mine sites," said NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn. Testifying June 7 before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Quinn said the $5.7 billion gap between expenditures and actual reclamation reveals that only one of every three dollars has been spent on the prior- ity coal AML lands. From the information available from the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement, Quinn said, "It is difficult if not impossible to account for this $5.7 billion gap. This is not only a financial gap but a credibility gap for the program." Quinn cited findings from the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of the Interior's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in summarizing what he considered seri- ous and persistent shortcomings in a pro- gram failing to deliver better results on its core mission. Quinn noted that the pro- gram structure has been divided into too many competing buckets of money lead- ing to the diversion of substantial sums to non-core purposes. "We need fewer buckets scooping up and diverting money and more focus on the top priority coal AML projects," Quinn stat- ed. Lax oversight has further enabled the suboptimal results, according to Quinn. With the 45-year old AML tax on the coal industry expiring in 2021, Quinn recommended that planning begin now for an orderly distribution of the remain- ing funds to non-certified states with as- surances they are spent wisely on priority coal abandoned mined lands. MSHA Launches Initiative to Address Injuries Data recently compiled between Octo- ber 2015 and March 2017 by the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration shows that less ex- perienced miners — both at a mine and at a specific occupation — suffer injuries at a higher rate than more experienced miners. Over this 18-month period, miners with one year or less of experience at a mine suffered 903 injuries, compared to 418 for those who had worked at a mine be- tween one and two years. Miners with one year or less job experience suffered 603 injuries, compared to 409 for those with between one and two years job experience. MSHA launched a Training Assistance Initiative throughout the nation's coalfields to address the causes and trends in recent coal fatalities. On June 12, the agency be- gan informing mine operators of the ini- tiative's planned launch, and encouraging them to participate and provide informa- tion about miners hired within the previous 12 months, and those in their current job for 12 months or less. With this informa- tion, MSHA can better focus its resources on the greatest fatality and injury risks. Staff from the agency's division of Coal Mine Safety and Health and training specialists from Educational Field and Small Mine Services will conduct these visits to coal mines. Their objectives in- clude reviewing the approved training plan posted at the mine to ensure that all information is up to date, and the most recently approved plan is posted; talking to and observing work practices of min- ers with one year or less experience at the mine to evaluate the effectiveness of the mine operator's new miner and expe- rienced miner training program. Alpha Divests Green Valley Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) has sold substantially all of the assets of two sep- arate operations, a coal mining complex and a natural gas operation, both located in central West Virginia. The Green Valley mining assets in Nicholas and Greenbrier counties are being sold to Quinwood Coal Co. The divestiture includes the Green Valley No. 1 prep plant and related per- mits, which have been idle since the sec- ond quarter of 2014. In addition to the coal mining com- plex, the New River Energy natural gas operation is being sold to Kinzer Drilling. The divestiture includes 120 producing natural gas wells in five counties. Alpha CEO David Stetson said the di- vestments represent another important step toward reducing Alpha's footprint. (Continued on p. 30)

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