Mining Operations

Mining Operations

Rock Truck We currently have 23 distinct Resource Groups, including sixteen in West Virginia, five in Kentucky and one in Virginia. These complexes blend, process and ship coal that is produced from one or more mines, with a single complex handling the coal production of as many as seven distinct underground or surface mines. Our mines have been developed at strategic locations in close proximity to our preparation plants and rail shipping facilities. Our extensive mining infrastructure, high quality coal reserves and well capitalized mines provide us with significant competitive advantages over our regional peers.

Massey is the largest coal producer in the Central Appalachian region, which is the principal source of low sulfur bituminous coal in the United States, used for power generation, metallurgical coke production and industrial boilers. Central Appalachian coal accounted for 20% of 2007 United States coal production according to EIA.

Mining Methods
We produce coal using four distinct mining methods: underground room and pillar, underground longwall, surface and highwall mining, which are explained as follows:

In the underground room and pillar method of mining, continuous mining machines cut three to nine entries into the coal bed and connect them by driving crosscuts, leaving a series of rectangular pillars, or columns of coal, to help support the mine roof and control the flow of air. Generally, openings are driven 20 feet wide and the pillars are 40 to 100 feet wide. As mining advances, a grid-like pattern of entries and pillars is formed. When mining advances to the end of a panel, retreat mining may begin. In retreat mining, as much coal as is feasible is mined from the pillars that were created in advancing the panel, allowing the roof to fall upon retreat. When retreat mining is completed to the mouth of the panel, the mined panel is abandoned.

In longwall mining (which is a type of underground mining), a shearer (cutting head) moves back and forth across a panel of coal typically about 1,000 feet in width, cutting a slice approximately 3.5 feet deep. The cut coal falls onto a flexible conveyor for removal. Longwall mining is performed under hydraulic roof supports (shields) that are advanced as the seam is cut. The roof in the mined out areas falls as the shields advance.

Electric Shovel Surface mining is used to extract coal deposits found close to the surface. This method involves removal of overburden (earth and rock covering coal) with heavy earth moving equipment, including large shovels and draglines, and explosives, followed by extraction of coal from coal seams. After extraction of coal, disturbed parcels of land are reclaimed by replacing overburden and reestablishing vegetation and plant life.

Highwall mining is used in connection with surface mining. A highwall mining system consists of a remotely controlled continuous mining machine, which extracts coal and conveys it via augers or belt conveyors to the portal. The cut is typically a rectangular, horizontal opening in the highwall (the unexcavated face of exposed overburden and coal in a surface mine) 11-feet wide and reaching depths of up to 1,000 feet. Multiple, parallel openings are driven into the highwall, separated by narrow pillars that extend the full depth of the hole.

Use of continuous mining machines in the room and pillar method of underground mining represented approximately 41% of our 2007 coal production. Production from underground longwall mining operations constituted approximately 6% of our 2007 production. Surface mining represented approximately 47% of our 2007 coal production. Surface mines also use highwall mining systems to produce coal from high overburden areas. Highwall mining represented approximately 6% of our 2007 coal production.