Friday roundup, June 25, 2010

June 25, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Relatives of a miner killed in a mine explosion react during his funeral in Amaga, northwestern Colombia, Friday, June 18, 2010.

Authorities in Colombia have recovered the last of the bodies of the 73 victims of the San Fernando coal mine disaster, which we reported on here earlier this week.

Back in the United States, meanwhile, my buddy Mike Gorrell at The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

For the second time this year, the Dugout Canyon coal mine in Carbon County has been shut down by federal mine safety regulators because of a “heating event.”

Mike also has a story about Murray Energy being sued by its insurers over the 2007 Crandall Canyon disaster:

Before two collapses killed nine men in 2007, Murray Energy Corp. flaunted safe mining practices in the Crandall Canyon coal mine, purposefully hid the level of risks there from federal regulators and ignored the mine-safety agency’s orders, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by a half-dozen insurance companies.

The insurers for Intermountain Power Agency (IPA), co-owners of the Emery County mine along with a Murray Energy subsidiary, are seeking compensation for expensive mining equipment sealed in the mine after underground rescue efforts were abandoned because the mine was too dangerous.

And here’s an interesting story about Patriot Coal:

Patriot Coal Corp. will have less coal to meet the strong demand from global steelmakers after its sudden decision to close a mine because of geological conditions.

The eastern U.S. coal producer said Monday evening it would permanently close its Harris mine in West Virginia after a roof collapse earlier this month. Shares of Patriot plunged Tuesday, hitting their lowest levels since December, trading down 14% at $14.02 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday afternoon.

The global market for metallurgical coal, which is used in steel production, has experienced a strong rebound, with mining companies this year increasing production levels to take advantage of robust demand and pricing. The Harris mine produced some of Patriot’s best-quality coal, capturing high margins for the company.

The Harris mine was expected this year to produce about 440,000 tons of metallurgical coal, but was scheduled to close in 2011 as its useful life ended, said Mark Schroeder, Patriot’s chief financial officer.

Mr. Schroeder said Patriot has declared force majeure for supplies contracted from the mine. A force majeure clause allows a company to exit a contract because of a problem beyond its control. Mr. Schroeder expects Patriot to meet its contractual obligations through output from its other mines, with the closure of Harris affecting its sales into the spot market, where steelmakers go for immediate supplies beyond their longer-term contracted amounts.

On the climate change front, there was an interesting paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

A new analysis of 1372 climate scientists who have participated in major climate science reviews or have signed statements in support or opposition to their main conclusions confirms what many researchers have said for years: Those who believe in anthropogenic climate change rank much higher on the scientific pecking order than do those who take issue with the idea.

The paper shows that “the vast majority of working [climate] research scientists are in agreement” on climate change, says climate science historian Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego. “Those who don’t agree, are, unfortunately—and this is hard to say without sounding elitist–mostly either not actually climate researchers or not very productive researchers.”

In Washington, a key meeting on clean energy and climate legislation at the White House was postponed this week, but President Obama is getting pressure from top Democrats to take the lead on the issue, according to my friend Darren Samuelsohn, who recently moved over to cover climate issues for Politico.

In West Virginia, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration reports that the investigation teams are prepared to enter the Upper Big Branch Mine, after officials have spent the last month making sure the operation was safe for the investigation to begin:

“A critical component of this investigation has now begun,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Along with the already extensive witness interviews that have been conducted, the physical examination of the mine hopefully will provide answers to the cause of a tragic explosion that has affected so many lives.”

Over at The Rural Blog, they report on a visit to the Kentucky coalfields by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

Southwestern Electric Power Company President and Chief Operating Officer Venita McCellon-Allen makes an announcement about the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling regarding the future of the Turk Power Plant in Hempstead County, Thursday, June 24, 2010 during a news conference at the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce. (AP Photo/Texarkana Gazette, Evan Lewis)

And in Arkansas, unit of American Electric Power  said on Thursday that a negative ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling won’t stop construction of a $1.7 billion, 600-megawatt, coal-fired plant that is 28 percent complete.

Have a good weekend, everybody …


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