By Bob Matyi and Annie Siebert
April 18, 2017 - Alliance Resource Partners' Hamilton No. 1 longwall mine in southern Illinois ramped up to its projected annual run rate of 6 million to 7 million st of thermal coal by turning out 1.7 million st in the first quarter of 2017, a state mining official said Monday.
Hamilton 1 was known as White Oak No. 1 before privately owned White Oak Resources was acquired by Alliance more than two years ago.
The mine began ramping up in the fourth quarter of 2016, when its output reached 1.3 million st, according to Art Rice, an official at the Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals.
"They're mining a longwall the way a longwall should be mined," he said about Alliance. "They've upped their production and seem to be doing pretty good."
Currently, Hamilton 1 is "finishing up that next panel," Rice added.
Alliance officials could not be reached for comment, but in the company's January 30 conference call with analysts to discuss quarterly earnings, Joseph Craft III, Alliance president and CEO, noted that if his company could get Hamilton 1 up to its full capacity that Hamilton would be the company's lowest-cost mine.
Hamilton had produced at the rate of about 500,000 st/quarter before the big ramp up started in November.
Alliance expects to produce about 38.2 million st and sell about 38.5 million st in 2017, up several million short tons from 2016. The increased production at Hamilton 1 is one of the reasons for the higher production/sales forecast.