Iron Senergy employees joined the company’s chief executive officer Tuesday morning to break ground on a new coal refuse storage structure that is anticipated to bring more than 700 new jobs and $4.5 million in tax revenue to Greene County.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the future site of the new Coal Refuse Disposal Area (CRDA) structure, located on Mooney Ridge Road in Whitely Township. CRDAs are areas or land plots used by mines as places for disposing of or storing coal refuse.
Calling it a significant investment in Cumberland Mine’s future, Justin Thompson, Iron Senergy CEO, said the groundbreaking also represents an expansion of the current mine plan.
“This decision further represents a critical milestone for the future of Cumberland’s workforce,” said Thompson, who added that at least 80% of the 700-plus new full-time jobs will be “well-paid” union laborers. In addition, Thompson said the new structure will bring in $3 million in tax revenue for Central Greene School District and $1.5 million for the county and township.
“Today visually signifies a commitment to run a long-term sustainable operation,” Thompson said. “I couldn’t be more excited with the progress.”
Thompson said Iron Senergy’s anticipated investment of $50-plus million in the project emphasized the importance of environmental safety.
“We could have probably spent less on this project, but the company chose to go a more expensive route because it costs more to guarantee the protection of the environment,” he said. “Spending more time – and money – focusing on doing the right thing, that’s the right way to do it.”
Thompson also recognized the state Department of Environmental Protection for its efforts and assistance in the project and for working with the company in preserving the employment of more than 700 full-time jobs.
“DEP officials have been, and continue to be, very cooperative with us,” he said. “They, as well as state and local officials and representatives, have given us feedback and have been tremendously helpful every step of the way.
Thompson said Iron Senergy’s Task Force 22, a multi-disciplinary team formed this past spring, will create a specific focus to evaluate refuse capacity and evaluate new and creative ideas. He said the task force will “accurately quantify construction time, capital investment, operating costs, operational risks, environmental risks, permitting requirements and bonding requirements of all options associated with expanding the refuse storage capacity for the continued operation of the Cumberland Mine.”
Thompson also thanked the company’s current workforce “for their daily commitment to our operations” as well as United Mine Workers of America Local 2300, of which Iron Sneergy employees are members.
The new structure will be the company’s third CRDA, and the project is expected to be finished by 2023. Thompson said after construction is finished on the new structure the company will finish working on and updating the mine’s second CRDA structure.
Although the company purchased Cumberland Mine from previous owners Contura Energy Inc. last December, Thompson said the project announced Tuesday has been “in the works” for more than a decade.
“This CRDA will extend the life of the mine for at least another 20 years,” he said.
Mark Alaman, Iron Senergy’s senior vice president of engineering, said the company will continue to have a commitment to the project after gaining ownership of the mine.
“This is an essential structure for the mine,” he said. “If we don’t build that third CRDA, then this mine doesn’t run.”
Noah Beazell, Iron Senergy’s senior manager of advanced water treatment, who has been employed with the mine for 16 years, said he is happy to see this project “finally come to fruition.”