ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Arch Coal announced Thursday work has begun to develop another coal operation in northern West Virginia which will create 600 mining jobs when fully operational. The company will also transition operations at its Mountain Laurel complex in southern West Virginia. The company made the announcement in a news release to shareholders.
The new complex will be called Leer South and will be a companion mine to Arch’s extremely profitable Leer Mine in Taylor County. The Leer mine is widely regarded as one of the lowest-cost, highest-quality and highest-margin coking coal mines in the country. Leer South will be located in Barbour County and will operate in the same 200 Million ton reserve as Leer.
“We are excited about this new project, which we view as transformational for Arch Coal and its shareholders,” said John W. Eaves, Arch’s chief executive officer. “With the addition of Leer South, Arch will greatly enhance its portfolio of world-class coking coal assets, and cement our position as the premier global producer of High-Vol A coking coal. We believe there is significant, unfulfilled global demand for High-Vol A coking coal generally, and our Leer brand specifically, and are already engaged in discussions with leading steel producers around the world that are eager to secure additional volumes of our Leer-brand products.”
The coal mined at Leer South is expected to be sold internationally for steel production. The announcement cited steel market analysts who expected solid growth in the demand for coking coal for steel production in the next decade, particularity in the markets of India and emerging nations of Asia.
Arch plans to invest approximately $360 million to $390 million over the next three years to develop the mine, with the longwall scheduled to start up in late 2021.
In addition to development of Leer South, the company’s Mountain Laurel complex in Logan County will transition from a longwall operation into a room-and-pillar mining operation. The longwall equipment from Mountain Laurel will be redeployed to the new Leer South complex, reducing start up costs for the operation. To further offset those initial costs the company will expand the existing preparation plant currently used at their Sentinel Mine which is also located in Barbour County. When fully operational, Leer South will employ nearly 600 employees.
“We view today’s announcement as a tremendously positive development for Arch Coal, surrounding communities, and the state of West Virginia as a whole,” said Paul A. Lang, Arch’s president and chief operating officer. “The new Leer South operation will provide exceptional career opportunities for nearly 600 West Virginians directly, and many times that number indirectly, and be a cornerstone of the regional economy for decades to come. Just as importantly, Arch is committed to ensuring that Leer South achieves the same exemplary, industry-leading standards of mine safety and environmental stewardship for which Arch has long been known.”