West Elk Mine


Arch Coal Inc.

Rail Loading Point

Arco, Colorado

Mine Background

West Elk is an underground mine using the longwall mining method. Longwall mining utilizes an electrically powered shearer to cut the coal. Rotating drums at each end of the machine are equipped with carbide cutting bits. Operation of the shearer involves driving the rotating cutting drums into the coal seam while moving along the face conveyor. The mined coal falls from the drums to the face conveyor. Development of mining panels for the longwall is done utilizing the continuous mining method. Each mining unit consists of one continuous miner, one double-boom roof bolter, one feeder breaker, two or three haulage units, and auxiliary support equipment.

Coal is loaded onto conveyor belts at the mine face and transported to a 250,000-ton storage pile. After crushing and screening to a nominal two-inch size, the coal is conveyed to two storage silos and an open stockpile with a total capacity of 123,000 tons. Coal is loaded into trains of up to 105 cars at a rate of 5,500 tons per hour. Coal is weighed by a Kanawha batch weighing system that is certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture Division of Weights and Measures. Sampling is performed by an ASTM approved three-stage automatic sampler.

Coal is currently mined from the B seam. Coal seams at West Elk mine (B and E seams) contain over 150 million tons of recoverable reserves. The mine opened in January 1982 and shipped 5.05 million tons of coal in 2001. Design capacity of the mine is 7.0 million tons annually.

Mine Type

Underground longwall

Recoverable Reserves

More than 150 million tons from two mineable coal seams.

Annual Production (2001)

5.05 million tons

Current Annual Production Capacity

7.0 million tons

Rail Loading Point Storage Capacity

Mine storage: 250,000 ROM
Processed coal storage: 123,000 tons
Total storage: 373,000 tons

Rail Loading Capacity

One 7,000-ton silo, one 16,000-ton silo and one open stockpile of approximately 100,000 tons capacity.

Loadout Description and/or Configuration

High speed belt-fed over-track surge bin supplying flood loading over-track weigh bin.

Weighing System

Kanawha flood loading weigh-bin system

Loading Rate per Hour

5,500 tons, 110 car train in two hours.

Load Track Configuration and Capacity

Double-ended empty/load track paralleling main line. Existing main track is utilized at present for trail and pull-down room. Accommodates 105 empties above and 110 loads below loadout.

Loading Mode

Plug. Downgrade coupled-load-in-motion with train in buff against locomotive.

Maximum Cars per Train

105 cars

Washing Capability


Coal Specifications

(B Seam)
11,800 Btu/lb., 0.50% Sulphur

Composition analysis (%) 
Steam Coal as Received:
Moisture 8.5
Ash 9.0
Volatile Matter 35.2
Fixed Carbon 47.0
Fusion Temperature of ash (Reducing °F) 
Initial Deformation 2,540
Softening (H=W) 2,610
Softening (H=1/2W) 2,640
Fluid 2,700