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Thread: The Coal Mine Disaster Shows Economics Still Trumps Safety

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    The Coal Mine Disaster Shows Economics Still Trumps Safety

    This week's coal mine disaster in West Virginia brings with it grim but familiar images and headlines, a new chapter in American coal mining's sometimes tragic legacy.

    The accident also reminds us that, despite federal and private-sector plans for adding alternative energy sources to the national grid, the nation's dependence on coal isn't going away. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal-fired power plants were responsible for nearly 45% of U.S. electrical power last year.

    Until this week, many analysts had hoped the U.S. coal-mining industry -- while still dangerous -- had become safer. Overall, U.S. mining injuries and fatalities have been declining since 2001.

    History of Safety Violations

    And with the introduction of the the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006, the first federal law of its kind in nearly 30 years, "we thought that we had done better," says Professor K.K. DuVivier, who teaches mining and energy at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law.

    DuVivier notes that the site of the accident, Massey Energy's (MEE) Upper Big Branch mine, has had a history of safety violations. "There's always the issue of enforcement," she says. "The question is, is our regulation good enough? And maybe it would be good enough if we enforced it."

    Massey Energy's shares dropped $6.24, or 11%, to $48.45 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading Tuesday after gaining on Monday. Trading volume surged to almost 40 million, compared with the three-month daily average of 5.4 million.

    Underground vs. Open Pits

    Stronger regulations have contributed to better safety records in the coal mines, but there's another factor at play. The center of America's coal-mining industry has shifted in recent decades, from central Appalachia to the Powder River Basin in Wyoming -- where coal is mined from open pits, rather than underground.

    Wyoming is now the top coal-producing region in the nation. The Bureau of Land Management says Wyoming coal supplies electricity to about 20% of all homes and businesses in the U.S. Coal and gas reserves there are huge and have led some people to call Wyoming the "Saudi Arabia" of the U.S.

    In Wyoming, as well as New Mexico, Arizona and other Rocky Mountain states, surface mining allows coal production "in much larger volumes, in much higher rates -- and the safety concerns are not as much," says Dr. Navid Mojtabai, chairman of the Mineral Engineering Department at the New Mexico Institute of Technology and Mining.

    Not Always Cheaper or Safer

    But that applies only if the coal seams are close to the surface.

    "It's not that, no matter what, you always do surface [mining] because it's cheaper or safer," Mojtabai says. "Under some economic and geologic conditions it's not more economical." Appalachian coal also has the advantage of being closer to major Eastern cities, which reduces transportation costs compared to Wyoming coal.

    In the meantime, despite the dangers, underground coal mining won't disappear from Appalachia or elsewhere in the U.S. in the near future. "It might be . . . as we deplete more and more deposits, we might have to go deeper and deeper," Mojtabai says.

    Says DuVivier: "There's going to still be a lot of political pressure to develop [underground coal mining] wherever you are, because of the economics."

    Source http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/co...6/?sms_ss=digg

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    Senior Member Uwe Jens Lornsen's Avatar
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    Wyoming is largest thermal coal miner in the USA

    Despite all the media hype for Trump and West Virginia Coal , Wyoming actually is the major thermal coal producer in the USA :
    Around 40% of thermal coal is excavated in Wyoming and around 99% of it is used inside the USA .

    There were expectations , to deliver to China , which did not fulfill , so a couple of coal excarvating companies loaned too much and ended in Chapter 11 bankruptcy . Pretty many jobs were laid off since the peak days until the first half of the 2010s .

    The quality of Wyoming coal is considered very low suphur , and at 8000 to 9000 British Thermal Units (BTU) per pound ,
    which at one Btu ≈ 0.25 kcal would be some 2000 to 2250 kcal/lb and 4000 to 4500 kcal/kg .

    In 2017, Wyoming produced 80,374 thousand short tons of coal, a sharp decline from the 387,924 thousand short tons it produced in 2013.

    A massive increase in instances of job loss and company shutdowns followed the decline in production. According to a Wyoming Research and Planning report, between 2014 and 2016, approximately 25,000 people were laid off because of the state’s economic downturn (Tribune).

    ...

    ... and in 2017 companies “withdrew applications for 901 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin. Shortly thereafter, three coal companies—Arch, Peabody, and Alpha—went bankrupt, resulting in almost 2,500 job losses in Gillette. For the small 32,000 person town of Gillette, these shutdowns were significant, ...
    https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blog...s-coal-country






    Further websites about Coal in Wyoming :


    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_mining_in_Wyoming
    In 2013, there were 17 active coal mines in Wyoming, which produced 388 million short tons, 39 percent of all the coal mined in the US, and more than three times the production of second-place West Virginia.

    http://www.wsgs.wyo.gov/energy/coal
    In 2017, 316 million short tons (MT) of coal were produced in Wyoming, up 6 percent from the 297 MT produced during 2016, but still low compared to the 400 MT averaged over the past two decades. Coal was produced from mines in Campbell, Sweetwater, and Lincoln counties in Wyoming. Coal production charts can be found on the WSGS Coal Production & Mining page.

    https://www.wyomingmining.org/minerals/coal/
    Wyoming’s peat collected in fresh water swamps, so it has very little sulfur resulting in our valuable low sulfur coal. The Powder River Basin’s Fort Union and Wasatch coal formations cover over a thousand square miles in northeastern Wyoming and include low sulfur, low ash coal beds up to 250 feet thick. Currently most Wyoming coal is mined from coal seams 100 feet thick. These are some of the world’s largest and thickest coal seams.

    ...

    Lignite mines in the U.S. are located primarily in Montana, North Dakota, Louisiana, and Texas.

    Major reserves of subbituminous coal are also found in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, and Alaska.

    In the U.S., bituminous coal is mined primarily in Appalachia and in the mid-western states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

    Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal seams are the largest in the world.
    Mk 10:18 What do you call me a good master, no-one is good .

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    Senior Member Uwe Jens Lornsen's Avatar
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    Nova Scotia , Canada , ceiling collapses

    Nova Scotia has only one operating underground coal mine , located in an depressed economic area .

    This coal mine stretches beneath the Atlantic Ocean , and is plagued by six roof falls since the past half year .

    DONKIN, N.S. — Operations have been suspended at Cape Breton's Donkin coal mine after a "roof fall," ...

    ....

    ... Labour Department said the province's only underground coal mine — its twin tunnels extend three kilometres under the Atlantic Ocean — has seen six roof falls since July.

    The department revoked the mine's ground control permit after the latest incident because the root cause wasn't immediately apparent and because of the recurring pattern.

    ...

    The Donkin mine resumed operating in 2017, promising well-paying jobs for the economically depressed region, but it has grappled with environmental criticisms and concerns about working conditions since then.

    During the first three months of operation, Nova Scotia's Labour Department issued 10 compliance orders and 29 warnings for violations of workplace safety and underground mining regulations, according to the Cape Breton Post.
    https://www.nsnews.com/nova-scotia-s...all-1.23574637
    Mk 10:18 What do you call me a good master, no-one is good .

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    My heart goes out to families of the victims of this terrible disaster. Mining is such and always has been a dangerous job. I hope the survivors make a full recovery.
    (It doesn't matter how old the song is, I won't stop liking it).

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