Eventually, they met Dave Bundy, president of Bundy Augering, who came to West Virginia from Pennsylvania with the same intentions.
Shortly after the meeting, a new company, Contour Mining Inc.
, was formed.
"We had an opportunity to get into the highwall mining business and looked at a couple of different systems," said Bundy
, now vice president for Contour Mining
."We liked the [SHM] system and the people behind it."
Meanwhile, as Contour Mining
developed plans to acquire a SHM system, Peabody Energy was contemplating the remaining coal beneath its highwalls at its Colony Bay property.A mine plan was developed between Colony Bay, Contour Mining
, and SHM.Contour Mining
began moving equipment onto the Colony Bay property during December 2001, and started mining Jan. 2, 2002.When Coal Age visited the site during April, they had already mined more than 363,000 tons from five pits and they were moving to a new location.
"We were fortunate to get experienced operators," said Bundy
."They watch the machine's controls.As soon as they encounter a spike, they know that they are hitting cap coal.That contributes to the good quality we have been experiencing."
"We had heard that the machine was capable of staying within 2% to 3% seam ash and we were somewhat skeptical," said Bundy
."It's made a believer out of me."
The SHM system cuts a series of parallel rectangular-shaped entries to a depth of 1,000 feet (ft).Mounted on a set of four hydraulically powered crawlers, the machine is aligned perpendicular to the coal face.
"The operator knows that certain beams would require specific pressures," said Dave Bundy
."If the pressures are too heavy, a problem might have developed such as rock on the cutterhead."By watching the machine's controls, an operator can tell the mining depth and conditions.
Since the string of pushbeams are hinged at 20-ft intervals, the machine can be navigated vertically through rolls and undulations within the coal seam.In the horizontal direction, the beams are stiff.Proper parallel alignment of each hole is essential to avoid cutting through the rib and to maximize reserve recovery.
"We have not experienced any significant downtime," Bundy
said."We keep close tabs on oil sampling with Superior Highwall Miners.And, it's paid off, because we have caught things that could have lead to a major problem."
Bit life is a concern and a variable cost.
"Currently, we are exceeding our expectations," said Bundy
"We have exceeded all of Peabody Energy's minimum requirements."
Realizing that it is early in the game for Contour Mining
, the company is happy with the results thus far.