Mine Closure will Affect 215 Workers

Mine Closure will Affect 215 Workers

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Skyline Mine in central Utah is to close by next summer, affecting 215 workers. The Canyon Fuel announcement Tuesday blamed Utah's soft coal market. It did not mention the controversy over water in the Wasatch Plateau mine, which produced about 3.5 million tons of coal in 2002.

Canyon Fuel said the mine will be shut down by the second quarter of 2004, but the idling process already is under way.

Skyline's majority owner, St. Louis-based Arch Coal, said it will keep the mine closed until economic conditions improve markedly.

"It's been a real difficult time for the Utah market," said Dick Pick, president of Canyon Fuel Co., the mine operator jointly owned by Arch Coal (65 percent) and Itochu Corp. (35 percent).

"Utah mines used to export more than 3 million tons to Japan. We don't export any coal to Japan anymore," he said. "Our other markets are in the Midwest and East, but there's a lot of coal produced between here and there, so it's difficult to move coal from Utah to the Midwest."

Steven F. Leer, Arch president and chief executive officer, said production in the southern part of the mine was nearing an end and Canyon Fuel faced expensive development work in the north end to keep the mine in production. The mine has a reserve base of about 50 million tons.

One of two continuous mining machines that prepare sections of coal seams for mining shut down earlier this month; the second will be idled sometime in September. A longwall mining machine that will excavate the coal made available by the continuous miners is expected to finish its work by next June, when the mine will be idled.

Some displaced miners may find work at Canyon Fuel Co.'s other central Utah operations, the Sufco Mine with 295 employees and the Dugout Canyon Mine with 155 employees.

The mine has been the subject of controversy since water began pouring in nearly two years ago. Utah Power believes the water is coming from the utility's manmade Electric Lake, which provides water for cooling the Huntington Power Plant.

However, tests have not determined whether the water is from the lake or some other source.

Canyon Fuel has been spending as much as $500,000 per month pumping water out of the mine, and it said earlier that the water was threatening to block access to a rich seam.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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