Our Alabama mining operations primarily mine metallurgical coal from both underground and surface mines.
At our Alabama No. 4 and No. 7 underground mining operations, operated by our Jim Walter Resource Division, we mine high quality metallurgical coal from the Blue Creek coal seam. These Alabama underground mines are 1,400 to 2,100 feet underground, making them some of the deepest vertical shaft coal mines in North America. Metallurgical coal mined from the Blue Creek seam, a high-quality bituminous coal. Blue Creek coal offers high coking strength with low coking pressure, low sulfur and low-to-medium ash content with high Btu values that is sold as hard coking coal used to produce coke. The coal is mined using longwall extraction technology with development support from continuous miners.
The Alabama operations also mine metallurgical coal and thermal coal for sale to industrial and electric utility customers through our surface mines, operated by our Walter Minerals Division. Walter Minerals currently operate three surface mines in Alabama. The Choctaw Mine is located near Parrish in Walker County, Alabama and produces thermal and hard coking coal. The mine has an onsite rail facility serviced by Norfolk Southern rail. Access to Highway 269 provides delivery access to local customers via truck. The Swann’s Crossing Mine is located in Tuscaloosa County, near Brookwood, Alabama, and produces both hard coking and thermal coal. The mine has access to our barge load-out facility on the Black Warrior River.
Barges are loaded with Blue Creek coal at our load-out facility on the Black Warrior River on their way to the Port of Mobile. The barge loading facility is owned and operated by Walter Minerals.
Our Canadian operations consist of three surface mines that produce hard coking and low-volatile PCI coals in Northeast British Columbia (the Wolverine Mine, the Brule Mine, and the Willow Creek Mine). These mines are near the towns of Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd.
Wolverine Mine, located approximately 15 miles south of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia, is an open pit metallurgical coal mine with a coal processing plant and a rail load-out facility capable of handling 3.5 million metric tons per year. The mine produces premium hard coking coal.
Brule Mine is an open pit metallurgical coal mine and produces a premium low volatile pulverized coal injection (PCI) product. It is located 28 miles south of Chetwynd, British Columbia. Coal from Brule is transported by truck to our Willow Creek Mine for processing and shipping. The Willow Creek Mine includes a processing plant and a load-out facility. We currently operate the Willow Creek Mine with Brule as a combined ‘‘Brazion Group.’’
The Willow Creek Mine produces metallurgical coal comprised of an estimated one-third hard coking coal and two-thirds low-volatile pulverized coal (PCI). Willow Creek Mine is located 28 miles west of Chetwynd, British Columbia. It is an open pit metallurgical coal mine with a coal processing plant and a rail load-out facility.
The Canadian mines are located adjacent to or nearby existing infrastructure established for the Northeast British Columbia coalfields, including established rail and road networks that are available all year round. Our Falling Creek connector road connects the Brule Mine to the Willow Creek Mine where Brule’s coal is processed and loaded at the rail load-out facility.
Coal is shipped by rail to a coal terminal facility at the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The rail line covers approximately 590 miles from our mines to the port. From the port facility, coal is exported to our international customers via ocean vessels.
We operate four mines on two properties in West Virginia. Mines on these properties produce both hard coking and thermal coal. The two properties are the Gauley Eagle and Maple properties and each has an underground mine, a surface mine and a coal preparation plant. The Maple mines are in Fayette and Kanawha counties and the Gauley Eagle mines are in Nicholas County.
Coal from the Gauley Eagle and Maple mines is transported by rail or barge to our customers. Coal shipped from our rail load-out facility or third party rail load-outs can access regional markets and ports on the eastern U.S. seaboard. Coal shipped by barge on the river systems is trucked to the Kanawha River and shipped locally or offshore via the Mississippi River or Tennessee-Tombigbee river system. The transportation infrastructure and strategic location of the mines near its customers ensures continuous and reliable delivery of our products.
The coking coal produced by our West Virginia operations is sold to domestic coke plants and international steel mills, while the thermal coal is sold domestically to eastern U.S. regional electrical power plants. Production comes from approximately 20 mineable seams, allowing us to blend coal to many quality specifications to meet our customers’ requests.
Our United Kingdom operation consist of the Aberpergym Mine, an underground development mine located near the town of Neath in South Wales. The mine produces anthracite coal, which can be sold as a low-volatile PCI coal, and other products used for domestic purposes.
The U.K. operation is well located to take advantage of demand from U.K. steel mills and the European market. Coal is processed in the operation’s preparation plant. It can be loaded at a nearby rail load-out facility or be transported to customers by road. In 2014, the mine supplied thermal coal for the cement market and anthracite coal for various commercial processes.