The New Elk coking coal project involves the redevelopment of the historic Allen coal mine located in Colorado, US. The underground coal mining project is planned to be developed by Allegiance Coal, which agreed to acquire the property in July 2019 and completed a feasibility study in November 2019.

The feasibility study predicted two million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of saleable coal production over an estimated mine life of 23 years, with a start-up capital investment of £22m ($28.4m).

Allegiance plans to complete the acquisition of the New Elk coal property and restart coal production at the mine in 2020.

It also signed a non-binding agreement to acquire the adjacent Lorencito coal property in December 2019 to increase the resource base of the New Elk coal project from 656Mt to 744Mt.

New Elk coal mine history

Originally known as the Allen mine, the New Elk coal project produced first coal in 1951. It supplied metallurgical coal to the Pueblo steel mill until it transitioned from blast furnace steel production to electric arc furnace in the late 1970s.

The mine, however, continued to supply coal to local power utilities until it ceased operations in 1989.

Cline Mining Corporation acquired the mine in 2008 and reopened it under the name New Elk Mine in 2010. The production was recommenced in 2011 after investing approximately £88m ($114m) for upgrading the mine infrastructure including the wash plant as well as the development of a second underground portal entry.

After being operated for several months, the New Elk mine was closed in July 2012 due to the fall of coking coal price.

Cline subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection and put the mine under care and maintenance.

New Elk coal mine location and geology

The New Elk coking coal deposit is located within the Raton Basin in Las Animas County, south-east Colorado.

The Raton Basin extends from Colorado to New Mexico and contains up to 7,620m of sedimentary rock sequence. Coal mining in the Raton Basin dates back to more than 150 years.

The Raton Basin is estimated to hold up to 15 billion tonnes of low-sulphur coking coal, according to the US Geological Survey.

Coal reserves at New Elk

The New Elk mine is estimated to hold 656Mt of coal resources shared across eight coal seams named Green, Loco, Blue, BCU, Red, Maxwell, Apache, and Allen. The height of each coal seam ranges between three feet and nine feet.

The recent feasibility study for the project, however, focuses only on the Green, Blue and Allen seams that are estimated to contain up to 45Mt of saleable coal in proven and probable reserves. The measured, indicated, and inferred resources in the three seams are estimated to be 267Mt.

Mining method and equipment for the New Elk coking coal project

The room and pillar underground mining method will be used for the New Elk coking coal project.

The mine has two existing underground portals along with access roads, belt roads, and ventilation roads into the Blue and Allen seams that are located 20m and 200m beneath the surface, respectively.

The mining fleet will comprise seven Joy 14cm15 continuous miners, seven Joy SC10 shuttle cars, one Joy feeder breaker, and one Fletcher roof bolter, apart from underground utility vehicles as well as surface support equipment including 40t dump trucks, graders, and front-end and back-hoe loaders.

Coal handling and processing

The run-of-the-mine (ROM) coal from both the portals will be conveyed into a rock crusher bin from where it will be fed into the ROM coal pad via a stacker conveyor.

The coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) will receive the ROM coal feed through dual underground feeding systems at a maximum feed rate of 727 tonnes per hour (tph).

The washed coal from the plant will be conveyed to a clean coal pad from where it will be further transferred into two 12,500t storage silos.

The New Elk mine site has an existing substation for electricity supply from the adjacent main line.

Coal transport infrastructure facilities

The saleable processed coal from the New Elk CHPP will be initially transported in 30t trucks by a 34km-long sealed road connecting an existing rail lead-out and siding adjacent to a rail line owned by BNSF Railway.

Allegiance also plans to lay a railway track to directly connect the CHPP with the BNSF line during the initial two years of mine operation.

The coal from the New Elk mine will be railed to the Pasadena deep-water terminal located in the Bay of Houston mainly for export to Europe and South America.