Arch Coal, Inc. announced that it has discontinued longwall operations at its Mountain Laurel mine in Logan County, West Virginia (USA), 3 months earlier than planned. The move is expected to reduce Arch's fourth quarter metallurgical coal volumes by between 150 000 and 200 000 t and its fourth quarter operating results by approximately US$20 million versus previous expectations.
As previously discussed, Mountain Laurel had encountered challenging geologic conditions in its final longwall panel. Once removed from the mine, the longwall system will be refurbished and relocated to the Leer South mine, which is expected to commence longwall production in the third quarter of 2021.
The announcement accelerates Mountain Laurel's planned transition to a room and pillar operation. Mountain Laurel currently has three of five continuous miners operating efficiently in the new configuration, and now expects to complete its transition to a room and pillar mine early in the first quarter of 2020. No changes in the mine's workforce are anticipated.
"We believe Mountain Laurel has a bright and profitable future as a continuous miner operation," said Paul A. Lang, Arch's President and Chief Operating Officer. "As we have stated in the past, Mountain Laurel has a world-class work force; extensive, low cost reserves; and some of the most advanced coal preparation, coal handling and coal blending facilities in the US. In effect, we are launching a brand new mine at Mountain Laurel – one that should benefit from a lower cost structure, better product quality and a more consistent operating performance – for a very modest capital investment."
With the completion of the transition, Mountain Laurel's cost structure should decline by around US$10/t when compared to its average cash cost in the first 9 months of 2019. As indicated, the more flexible mining configuration and enhanced coal blending capabilities should also lead to a significant improvement in the mine's future product quality.
"We believe that this accelerated transition sets the stage for a stronger operational start and lower per tonne costs for Arch's core metallurgical coal segment in 2020," Lang said. "Over the longer-term, we expect the new mining configuration – combined with the progression of the Leer mine into thicker coal and the ultimate startup of Leer South – to drive incremental improvements in the average mining cost, product quality and profit margin of our already high performing metallurgical coal portfolio."
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/coal/19112019/archs-mountain-laurel-mine-discontinues-longwall-operations-early/