Hot coal starts fire at idled Elk Creek mine

A fire that consumed much of the Elk Creek coal mine conveyor system started when a chunk of hot coal that had been stored in a silo rolled down a conveyor belt, setting it ablaze on Tuesday morning, company officials said.

No injuries were reported and no immediate damage estimate was available.

“We’re looking to remove the damaged portion off the structure and then assess our options,” said Brad Goldstein, director of corporate affairs for Oxbow Carbon LLC, which owns the mine.

Coal is known to combust spontaneously and coal that has been mined recently tends to be susceptible to spontaneous combustion.

The mine still had some coal in inventory, Goldstein said.

The fire was outside the mine, which was idled early this year when spontaneous combustion inside the mine forced its closure.

Nearly 300 people lost their jobs when the mine was idled, leaving a skeleton crew of 20 or fewer people.

Oxbow Carbon is continuing work on opening another mine nearby on Oak Mesa and is planning to drill two exploratory wells next year to better understand the amount of coal that could be available and the geology of the area.


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