Oak Grove Mine

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The Oak Grove Mine is a coal mine located in Adger in western Jefferson County extracting coking coal from the Blue Creek seam. As of 2006 Oak Grove was the fourth-largest of nine underground coal mines in Alabama. Owned by Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio, the operation employs approximately 280 workers. The miners are members of the United Mine Workers of America, Local 2133.

The Oak Grove Mine was opened in 1975 by U. S. Steel. It was bought in 2003 by Oak Grove Resources, LLC, a subsidiary of PinnOak Resources of Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, and sold in 2007, along with two mines in West Virginia, to Cleveland-Cliffs. The mine produces a low-sulfur coal used in coking operations in steel production. The coal is processed at the Concord Preparation Plant in Hueytown and transported by rail, barge or truck. Exports are from the Port of Mobile. The mine is expected to close between 2013 and 2016 unless it is expanded.

On-site "Total Environmental Releases" from Oak Grove Mine reported by the Toxins Release Inventory include 165,133 pounds of lead compounds, 7,294 pounts of barium compounds, and 259 pounds of mercury compounds. Releases to the environment decreased by 83% during the period from 1998 to 2002.

A precision gas monitoring system was installed at Oak Grove by U. S. Steel. PinnOak installed a 42" slope conveyor, increasing capacity by 40%. They also initiated use of a combination miner and roof bolter which allows both operations to proceed simultaneously, and have implemented systems designed to recover more fine coal that was previously salvaged. They also purchased an underground resource tracking and communication system in 2005.

On March 7, 2006 the UMWA called for a one day work-stoppage for miners to picket the Alabama capitol for better safety regulations and enforcement at coal mines in the state. This action followed an explosion at the Shoal Creek Mine and evacuation of the Oak Grove mine by Federal inspectors in February due to build-up of methane gas in the mine. During 2005, PinnOak was fined $476,561 for safety violations at Oak Grove.

In September 2006 PinnOak cut 89 jobs at the mine, leaving about 240 at the site, a number which grew over the next year to about 280. During the first half of 2007 the mine was cited 415 times for safety violations. On June 14, 2007 the Mine Safety and Health Administration named Oak Grove as one of eight mining operations nationwide with "a potential pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards."

Later that year PinnOak was acquired by Cliffs Natural Resources (formerly Cleveland-Cliffs). The company expanded its holding in the fall of 2008 by purchasing 1,000 acres of adjacent land from U. S. Steel.

On May 22, 2008 motorman Lee Edward Graham, 64, was killed in an underground accident, possibly while investigating a mining car derailment. In April 2009 Cliffs laid off 65 workers at the mine.

[edit] References

  • U. S. Steel (April 10, 2002) "U. S. Steel to Sell Assets of Mining Company". Press Release. [1] - accessed March 26, 2006
  • Pederson, Paul and Clay Dennison. (March 20, 2006) "'Safety now!' say Alabama miners". The Militant. - accessed March 26, 2006
  • Hubbard, Russell (September 14, 2006) "Oak Grove mine cuts 89 jobs". Birmingham News
  • Hubbard, Russell (June 15, 2007) "Mine cited on safety is sold." Birmingham News
  • Oberholzer, Kristin (May 23, 2008) "Miner identified in fatal Oak Grove accident." Birmingham News
  • Cooper, Lauren B. (October 31, 2008) "Cliffs Natural Resources purchases 1,000 acres in Adger." Birmingham Business Journal

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