America’s newest longwall:  Allegheny Metallurgical’s Longview

The biggest surprises come when you least expect it, and that’s part of the glean of the newest underground longwall mine in the U.S. After years of planning and development, 
Longview is ready for her close-up. NAM recently got an exclusive tour.

By Donna Schmidt

Deceivingly close to the paved roads and traffic of small-town Bridgeport, W.Va., just south of the city of Morgantown in the state’s northern hills, lies a new star for American coal mining: a next-generation metallurgical project from Allegheny Metallurgical that is set for a mine life exceeding 26 years.

CEO Keith Hainer and Operations General Manager Ryan Toler, who hosted NAM for the mine’s first-ever mining trade press appearance, are understandably proud. With a price tag of more than $600 million and a planned annual output of 3.3 million tons per year of high vol A metallurgical coal for both domestic and export markets, they and their team have invested years in building the support and infrastructure that now make up the Longview complex.

In preparation to begin running the longwall at the brand new mine in Volga, the mine’s team created a rare sight: a near-complete setup of the panel and shield at the surface as a way to get a final quality evaluation of what would later be transported to its underground home in the first longwall panel.

Extracting from the Lower Kittanning seam and with saleable reserves of more than 90 million tons, this new mine is also set to have a major impact on its surrounding communities with more than $700 million in revenue for the state over 20 years and $40 million in gross annual wages for more than 400 employees.

“As a West Virginian, born and raised here, I am proud of this project for the impact it is making on our local communities and the state,” said Hainer.

Back to the beginning
The history of the Allegheny Metallurgical project goes back to 1991, when land owner Primeacre Land, a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel, announced it would divest its Barbour division. In July of that same year, a sale was made to Gerbtruder. Fast-forward to August 2002, when Gerbtruder sold their mineral assets in the Pittsburgh and Redstone seams to Penn Virginia; it would retain the Lower Kittanning seam, however. A few months later in October, North Central Resources formed to develop the Lower Kittanning and Upper Mercer reserves.

Financial backers AMCI and JAZ Ventures became project partners in 2008, subsequently beginning the permitting process for the Barbour County property, and a feasibility study was completed in June 2009 by Pittsburgh-based consultant John T. Boyd.

A third financier, POSCO, joined the project partnership in 2010, and three years later in March 2013, Boyd updated its feasibility study for the project – just ahead of the issuance of the US ACE 404 permit in May and forming of Century Mining in July 2018.

The final financial backer, Japanese-headquartered ITOCHU, joined the partnership in 2020. In September 2021, Allegheny Metallurgical was born.

Site development and the process to the first longwall tonnage was relatively quick, with site developing in January 2019 and slope development starting in September of that same year. The year 2020 saw the start of construction for the conventional in-seam mining and the intake shaft raise bore, and 2021 marked the achievements of slope development cutting through to the underground development area – as well as the first erecting of plant steel.

The first cut of coal at the Longview mine was celebrated on April 28, 2022.

Processing of high-carbon tonnage commenced in January of last year, as did the first coal train the following month via CSX/A&O. The longwall started production in December 2023, and has since ramped up to full production goal levels.

Running right: fleet, operational stats
Allegheny Metallurgical has leaned on a number of domestic and international partnerships to outfit its fleet with cutting-edge technology. Major equipment includes Komatsu 12CM12 continuous miners and a Fletcher CHDDR roof bolter as well as Simmons scoops, a Cogar feeder and NARCO 10SC32 shuttle cars.

At the longwall, the system is outfitted with a Komatsu 7LS1D shearer (66-inch drums, with a 42-in. web) that has installed power of 1,840-horsepower. Opposite the APC are a total of 183 two-meter FAMUR shields; the AFC itself and the 345-hp BSL were brought in by Longwall Associates. Cat PMCR 1.0 controls and its CST power package (3 X 1900 hp) use Becker SMC power. EEP has supplied its control valving and its face and stageloader chain, which operate at 376 feet per minute, are Thiele. Its hydraulic hoses are from Tiefenbach, and the electric drive motors on the AFC were provided by Morley. Once coal is cut from the face, it moves out on a 60-in. conveyor. The current panel’s dimensions at the longwall face at 1,206 ft. in width by 10,000 ft. in length. Seam height for the Lower Kittanning here measures a mean 75 in., and crews are using an 84-in. cutting height. Retreat at the wall is capable of about 4,000 tph.

While a panel move has not yet had to be done, the operator estimates that it will average one move per year, each with a duration of about 12 days.

While traveling underground, which is at a depth of 650-1,300 ft. and accessed by elevator, the typical roadway and pillar dimensions of 105 ft. by 140 ft. and a 4×4 primary support system is employed with supplemental bolts, two cables installed every other row. While mesh is installed, it is not required. Place change development is utilized at the mine, with three headings driven for development.

Also of note: Longview’s belt system, which employs 5,700-tph conveyance capacity with 4,000 tph at the longwall and gate. The suppliers here are primarily Continental Conveyor and Fenner Dunlop. Toler reports no major obstacles in the belt system that would impact production capacity.

In terms of the general operational issues, mine management does not report anything significant. In fact, they report a singular issue nearly every one of its contemporaries faces, especially in this region: geological changes and seam undulations.

Here, the Lower Kittanning coal seam is contained in the Pennsylvanian Age Allegheny Formation.

“Seam structure with syncline and parallel anticline bisecting reserve districts with localized paleochannels identified in the reserve area,” officials noted. The roof strata typically consists of laminated shale, and the floor consists of claystone.

Ventilation and maintenance
Ventilation in the mains is RRTBIII and at the gate is BIR. Gas, a normal finding for the area, is controlled via a push-pull ventilation system with a 115-in., variable frequency controlled (VFD) at 2500 hp, a centrifugal blowing fan on a 16-ft. diameter intake air shaft, and a 100-in. VFD, 1,250-hp centrifugal exhaust fan on a 10.5-ft. diameter bleeder shaft. The mine currently liberates about one million cubic feet of methane every 24 hours.

While the mine’s crews follow a rather unique staffing schedule (see below), maintenance is a consistent with a major focus on preventative maintenance in its regime. There is a daily outage prior to section startup for maintenance work orders, as well as daily, weekly and monthly evaluations for all equipment. A 24/7 schedule for its payroll helps to keep this effort a consistent success.

Longview’s miners can communicate with each other and with its central office via its Innovative Wireless Technologies (IWT) radio system. Allegheny Metallurgical also has an IWT CO wireless monitoring system for optimum safety.

The people factor
For being a new mine, the operator has done a great job of bringing together a skilled team to work safely and productively across the complex. Some of that relates to the generational miner population of the Volga area, including mining towns such as Philippi and Buckhannon. Another element to that, though, is a work schedule that essentially has miners working 14 days out of every 28 days.

Most – about 300 – of Allegheny Metallurgical’s 393 workers are tasked with underground duties, and nearly all of Longview works on two 12-hour shifts.

“Employees work…a seven-day stretch off every 28 days (4 on, 3 off, 3 on, 1 off, 3 on, 3 off, 4 on, 7 off),” Toler said. He added that there are four rotation crews required to cover that schedule around the clock.

There is currently research ongoing at 
Allegheny Metallurgical in partnership with 
the National Institute for Occupational Safety 
and Health (NIOSH).

Specifically, researchers are collecting data on roof control in the mine’s first longwall panel, including measuring stress changes in the roof, measuring pillar pressure changes and the extent of abutment pressure and measuring roof separation and deformations. At press time, NIOSH was planning to collect the most recent data, which it will share with the operator, but the project itself will continue.

Safety notes
Allegheny Metallurgical maintains a behavior-based system program with employee safety audits. It also offered hands-on longwall training during the longwall’s mini-build (see photo on page 48) prior to the mine’s underground setup and operation.

With the mine now online, it is easy to note the safety elements of the underground environment, including Strata refuge chambers and a Matrix proximity detection system. There is a cache of Ocenco 6.5 self-contained self rescuers (SCSRs) available for workers; their everyday person-worn units are Ocenco M20s.

Longview installed an IWT Communications and Tracking system planned from the start. This digital communication system uses a wireless mesh network, as a backbone, which provides atmospheric monitoring of the mine as well as communication and tracking of each coal miner.

Other safety additions brought in to Longview include an automated multi-colored LED warning light system on longwall shields, cameras on shuttlecars as well as the scoops and shearer, and fully automated longwall mining with capability to operate from surface or underground longwall control POD away from the face.

Daily safety communications at the portal involve shift-to-shift notes and reporting, along with daily safety meetings and video boards that display a continuous loop of important information.

Prep and transport
Once the tonnage workers at Allegheny Metallurgical achieve is brought to the surface, it enters the preparation facility where it flows through a circuit of heavy media, dense media cyclone (or rewash circuit) and a fines circuit of spirals and column flotation. Recovery rates vary, but the plant’s capacity is a mean 1,400 tph.

Coal leaves the mine iprimarily by rail thanks to a spur line built by the company that is maintained by CSX, but has the capability to ship via truck. The mine loadout can manage 130 cars at one time, separating into two 65-car segments using the side track put in place before first production began. Currently, the nearby clean coal stockpiles have a capacity of 220,000 tons.

The mine’s current customer list is primarily export, but to various customers. The future of its domestic offtake or growth of export offtake will be market-driven, Toler noted.

Allegheny Met Leadership
CEO: Keith Hainer
CFO: Greg Saragus
General Manager: Ryan Toler
Mine Superintendent: Mark Kimler
Mine Foreman: Brad Phillips
Maintenance Manager: James Paynter
Plant Superintendent: Vince Donato
Plant Manager: Wade Wright
Safety Manager: Dan Curry

About Allegheny Met Longview
Location: Volga, Barbour County, W.Va.
Longwall mining started: December 8, 2023
Seam name: Lower Kittanning
Seam height (ave.): 75 inches
Overburden: 650-1300 feet
Recoverable reserves: 93 Mt
Mine life est.: 26 years

Longwall system includes: Joy 7LS1D shearer, 183 FAMUR 2-meter shields, Longwall Associates face conveyor with Thiele chain and HBT motors, Longwall Associates/HBT crusher and BSL
Development system includes: Komatsu/Joy 12CM12 continuous miners, Fletcher CHDDR bolters, Simmons scoops, Spendrup fans, NARCO 10SC32 shuttlecars

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