Coal mines in Central Appalachia saw a near-three-year high in production volumes for the second quarter, as the metallurgical and export markets continue to remain strong, according to preliminary US Mine Safety and Health Administration data.
The Coronado Coal-owned Buchanan mine, located in Buchanan County, Virginia, produced 1.21 million st in Q2, down 11.7% from 1.37 million st produced in Q1 and 13.1% lower than the 1.39 million st in the year-ago quarter. It was the lowest quarterly volume for the low-vol metallurgical underground mine since 1.2 million st was produced in Q2 2016.
In the latest quarter, 12 mines produced coal for the first time since 2015, including one that was in operation for the first time since Q1 2004 and six that were operating for the first time ever.
The six mines produced 122,152 st of coal in Q2, led by the Gobco No. 14 surface mine, owned by Mountain Fuels Inc, and the underground Putney Darby Mine No. 1, owned by JRL Coal Inc, which produced 49,577 st and 42,743 st, respectively.
The top 15 mines in Central Appalachia all produced more than 300,000 st and combined to produce 6.64 million st in Q2, compared with only 13 mines that produced over 300,000 st in the previous quarter. The last time more than 15 mines produced 300,000 st or more was when 17 did so in Q1 2014.
Only three of the top 15 mines saw decreases from the previous quarter -- the Buchanan mine was down 11.7%; Alliance's Mine No. 4 was down 0.1%; and Arch's Mountaineer II mine was down 23.3%. Five of the top 15 producing mines saw year-on-year decreases.
Blackhawk Overtakes Alpha
Lexington, Kentucky-based Blackhawk Mining overtook Alpha Natural Resources in the latest quarter for the largest coal producer in the region.
Blackhawk's 28 mines produced 3.52 million st of coal in Q2, up 6.2% from 3.32 million st produced in the previous quarter and 5.4% above the 3.34 million st produced in the year-ago quarter. The company's American Eagle mine output jumped to 487,458 st, up 24.2% from Q1, but down 13.2% from 561,657 st in the year-ago quarter.
Alpha produced 3.51 million st in Q2, up 5.8% from 3.32 million st in the prior quarter, but down 2.5% from 3.6 million st in the year-ago quarter. The Kingsport, Tennessee-based company's largest mine, Republic Energy, produced 420,531 st in Q2, up 29.5% from 324,651 in Q1 and also up 1.9% from 412,764 st in the year-ago quarter.
Surface Production Highest Since Q3 2015
Surface mine production in Central Appalachia was at 8.85 million st, up 8.1% from 8.19 million st produced in the prior quarter and the highest quarterly volume for surface mines since 9.51 million st in the third quarter of 2015. Surface production represented 43.5% of the total CAPP production, up from 40.6% in the previous quarter and 40.5% in Q2 2017.
Arch Coal's Coal-Mac mine was the largest surface mine with 662,053 st produced in Q2, up 8.6% from 609,482 st in the previous quarter and the most since 737,802 st in Q3 2014.
The remaining 11.52 million st was produced by underground mines, led by Buchanan, down 3.9% from 11.98 million st produced in Q1 and down 4.1% from 12 million st in the year-ago quarter.
Alpha was the largest surface producer in Q2 with its six mines producing 1.5 million st, up 15.4% from 1.31 million st in the previous quarter but down 0.5% from a year ago.
Blackhawk remained the largest underground miner with its 18 underground mines producing 2.35 million st of coal, up 4.6% from the previous quarter, but down 4% from 2.45 million st in the year-ago quarter.