Cline’s Foresight Leads to Mining Success

As Christopher Cline was considering how to move more coal to the market in West Virginia and realizing how much coal was available under the ground in southern Illinois, he had the notion that the Environmental Protection Agency would soon require coal-fired electric plants to add scrubbers on their plants to clean the air.

This foresight was right on the money and in 2005 the EPA advanced that requirement that opened up new markets for the high sulphur coal. With an investment of $300 million he snatched up the mining rights and equipment needed to mine Illinois coal. As plants installed scrubbers on their smoke stacks the use of Illinois coal surged and Cline was in the position to meet the increased demand.

It’s been reported that in 2008 one of Cline’s mines in Montgomery County, Illinois known as the Deer Run mine was pulling eight million tons of coal a year and could sustain that production until 2016. With an estimated 250 year supply of coal buried under the state of Illinois, Cline anticipates that his company will be mining about 60 million tons of coal a year from Illinois mines providing fuel for electricity for years.

Larger veins of Illinois coal also make it easier, cheaper and resultantly safer than in his mining days in West Virginia. As opposed to using a pick ax as his grandfather did, his company now uses long wall mining. Instead of punching through walls of coal, this technique uses a large shear, over five-feet in diameter, to cut a three-foot slice of coal from a vein estimated to be 1,400 feet in width, much like a slicer in a delicatessen.

Longwall mining is available in the Illinois mines as opposed to mining the typical four-foot veins in the West Virginia mines that were often filled with water and mud. He also refers to his days as a youngster when his mining dirt under the family porch caused it to nearly collapse. Safety is one of his top priorities and he spends about $28 a square foot to provide ceiling supports in his mines.

Chris Cline’s vision that convinced the government to mandate methods to clean the air emitted from power plants led him to the decision to buy into the so-called dirty coal in Illinois. His background in mining and the experience gained while growing up in a mining family helped him develop new methods of getting the coal out of the ground. As his company sits on an estimated $3 to $4 billion worth of Illinois coal he is being known for bringing the Illinois industry back to life.

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