The collapses and ultimate closure at the Crandall Canyon Mine and the closing of the Aberdeen Mine are blamed for a 7.1 percent decrease in Utah's coal production in 2007 and a 5.3 percent loss in mine-related employment, the Utah Geological Survey reported this week in its "Annual Review and Forecast of Utah Coal."
The report cited "difficult" mining conditions in two other mines for the drop in 2007 production to 24.3 million tons.
The prediction for 2008, however, is an increase in production to 25.4 million tons due to increases at three mines. That's despite what the UGS termed as significant reserve depletion and increasing "depths of cover," or greater amounts of mountain above mine shafts, at some Utah mines.
Nine men died last August in two separate collapses far below a mountain of rock, or cover, at Crandall Canyon.
During the third quarter this year, Utah is expected to produce its one billionth ton of coal. On the down side, in 2008 coal-related employment is forecast to see a drop of 134 employees to 1,754 throughout Utah, the UGS reported.
Carbon County and operations on state lands experienced record production levels for coal in 2007. For 2008 the average price of Utah coal is anticipated to increase by 6.7 percent to $26.87 per ton, the highest price in nominal dollars since 1987, according to the UGS.
UGS officials said concerns over carbon constraints may "curtail" coal demand in the near future.
"In fact, all planned coal-fired power plants in Utah are on hold pending permit challenges or financing problems," UGS project geologist Michael Vanden Berg said in a statement. Rocky Mountain Power, he noted, won't build another coal-fired plant until regulators develop carbon mitigation strategies.
To combat a higher ash product, two new coal-cleaning facilities have been built at Canyon Fuel's Castel Valley coal preparation plant and at Headwaters' Wellington cleaning facility, both located near Price.The full UGS report can be found online at geology.utah.gov/online/c/c-107.pdf.