Shoal Creek Mine
The Shoal Creek Mine is the largest coal mine in Alabama. It stretches from its main portal at 8488 Nancy Ann Bend Road near Adger across parts of Jefferson, Walker and Tuscaloosa counties, extracting coking coal from the Blue Creek and Mary Lee seams of the Warrior Coal Basin.
The Shoal Creek Mine was opened in 1994 by the Drummond Corporation. The company used underground longwall and continuous mining techniques to remove coal. Workers at the site are unionized and members of the United Mine Workers of America Local 2133. In 2005 the mine employed 819 miners in three shifts, seven days a week, producing an average of 12,000 tons of washed coal per day. At peak operation the mine produces about 3 million tons of coal per year. The mine produces a medium-volatility, low-sulfur "metallurgical" coal used in coking operations. Historically, Shoal Creek coal was used in power generation.
Shoal Creek Mine, which is up to 1,300 feet deep at places, crosses beneath the main course of the Warrior River. The mine requires constant pumping, using 168 pumps to remove over 18 million gallons per day, which is returned to the river downstream.
In 2002 two "Synfuel" plants were built at Shoal Creek to wash and process the coal, improving its chemical characteristics for use in steel plants in Europe and Asia. The processed coal leaves the site by barge on the Warrior River and is freighted from the McDuffie Terminal in Mobile.
The mine was the site of a series of methane gas explosions beginning on February 24, 2006, which caused significant flooding and other damage to the operation, but no injuries or loss of life. The company announced in December 2006 that it would idle the mine on December 6, laying off 455 workers. 81 employees would remain on site for care and maintenance of the idled facility. In February 2007 the mine was re-opened. Two other incidents in June, one causing damage to an underground wall and one, a lightning strike which injured five workers, prompted brief closures.
On August 8, 2007 the mine's 550 workers went on strike after one miner was suspended for absenteeism. Drummond filed suit to end the strike, which it claimed was being conducted in violation of the collective bargaining agreement in place.
In 2017 the Shoal Creek Mine produced 2.1 million tons of metallurgical coal and collected $387 million in revenue. The mine seam still holds approximately 58 million tons in reserve.
In 2018 Drummond sold the mine, then employing 450 workers, to Peabody Energy of St Louis, Missouri for $387 million. The sale did not include "legacy liabilities" beyond legally required land reclamation work. After the sale, workers' pension plans were rendered ineffective, with Peabody offering a 401(k) retirement program.
In 2020 Peabody reduced operations and employment at the Shoal Creek Mine, and halted production altogether, laying off 350 workers, in October of that year. The company reached a contract agreement with the UMWA Local No. 2133 in September 2021, under which it was expected that operations would resume.
- "Drummond Co. to idle Shoal Creek Mine, lay off 455 union workers." (December 4, 2006) Birmingham Business Journal
- Hubbard, Russell (August 11, 2007) "Miners walk off Shoal Creek site." The Birmingham News
- Van der Bijl, Hanno (September 21, 2018) "Jefferson County coal mine to be bought for $400 million." Birmingham Business Journal
- Van der Bijl, Hanno (December 4, 2018) "Peabody completes $387M purchase of Drummond coal mine." Birmingham Business Journal
- "350 laid off due to closing of Alabama mine." (October 5, 2020) AP/The Birmingham News
- Thornton, William (September 27, 2021) "Miner’s union ratifies contract for Peabody Energy’s Shoal Creek mine." The Birmingham News