Export Coal back in Fashion:
European and Asian Demand
By: Philip Newswanger
David F. Host
Coal was king last year, with exports surging strongly after more than a decade of weak demand and flat prices.
That was also the year that Dominion Terminals Associates, the owner of the sprawling coal complex on the James River, celebrated its 20th year handling coal in Newport News.
The opening of the terminal in 1984, owned by five coal companies, ushered in a new era of handling coal at ports. Critics panned it, saying it was the wrong time to invest in coal with a worldwide oil glut and a recession.
"That was the transformation of rail direct dump to stockpiles," said David F. Host, President of T. Parker Host, ship agents and brokers. At DTA, rail cars are dumped at the terminal and the coal falls onto a conveyor belt that carries the coal to stockpiles. Under the old system, still prevalent at Norfolk Southern's coal pier in Norfolk, rail cars wait in the yard until the ship arrives.
Twenty years ago, the $135 million terminal, financed by bonds issued by the Peninsula Ports of Virginia, opened to much acclaim and praise. Then, Governor Jay Rockefeller of WV and Governor Charles Robb of VA attended the opening ceremonies. Robb, speaking before a gathering of 250 people, said the project could generate $300 million for the state's economy.
DTA finishes its 20th year of operation
Charles E. Brinley
"It changed our way of doing business," Host said.
"It was the first time you didn't have a railroad
controlling the coal from the mine to the ship."
With DTA's automated systems, the terminal can be operated by a handful of people. DTA employs 65 people. Norfolk Southern employs 450 at its 100-year-old Lamberts Point coal pier, which was remodeled in 1967.
The original DTA owners were Utah International of San Francisco, Pittston Co. of Greenwich, Conn., Westmoreland Coal Company of Philadelphia and Armco Inc. and Ashland Coal Co., both of West Virginia, according to Charles E. Brinley, President and Chief Operating Officer of DTA.
Brinley, who just stepped down as the president of the Hampton Roads Maritime Association, was instrumental in putting together the partnership when he was senior vice president of planning and development for Westmoreland Coal in 1981.
Through consolidations, mergers and bankruptcies, only four partners remain: Peabody Coal, St. Louis, MO, 20 percent; Arch Coal Company, St. Louis, MO, 17.5 percent; Dominion Energy Coal Marketing and Trading, 20 percent; and Alpha Natural Resources, Abingdon, VA 32.5 percent.
Brinley said the terminal has the capacity to handle up to 22 million tons a year. Last year, the terminal handled 5.2 million tons, perhaps the lowest in its history, Brinley said. By the end of this year, 6.4 million tons will have passed through the terminal.
"Our peak was in '91-'92," he said. DTA handled 18 million tons of coal each of those years. Since then, coal handlings have been dropping, he said.
In its heyday, the coal terminals in Hampton Roads loaded more than 50 percent of America's coal exports. Since the early '90s, coal loadings have averaged 12 million to 14 million tons of year.
Brinley said a number of factors contributed to the decline, including a stronger dollar, more coal mines and terminals opening in Venezuela, Colombia, and Indonesia, higher prices from domestic buyers, such as utilities, and low ocean freight rates, which made coal from South Africa – already cheaper at the mine than U.S. coal – on a par with or cheaper in overall costs than U.S. coal in European markets.
But with historically high oil prices and China consuming every natural resource it can buy, U.S. coal is suddenly fashionable. Through November, coal exports are up 33 percent in Hampton Roads, to 17.7 million tons, on track to become the best year in coal loadings since 1992. cl
MSHA Announces Mining Fatalities Decline to New Record Low
David G. Dye
Mining fatalities in the United States fell to a new low in the recorded history of mining as 53 miners lost their lives in accidents on the job during 2004, according to preliminary information from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
That record low total compares with 56 fatalities nationwide in 2003, the previous record low. There were 67 fatalities in 2002 and 72 on-the-job deaths in 2001.
"Though we are pleased to see the number of accidental mining fatalities decrease for the fourth consecutive year, at MSHA we remain committed to helping rid the mining industry of the workplace hazards that continue to threaten the lives and well-being of working miners every day," said David G. Dye, acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.
"We intend to use all the tools provided to us by Congress-education and training, technical support, and enforcement measures-to help reduce mining fatalities even further during 2005. Our goal is total elimination of fatalities in the U.S. mining industry and to see every miner go home safe and healthy after each shift."
Preliminary information indicates coal mining fatalities dropped to 27 during 2004, compared with 30 during 2003.
There were 27 coal mining fatalities during 2002. The metal and nonmetal mining industry recorded 26 fatalities on the job during 2004, the same total reported for that industry in 2003. These numbers were down from the 42 metal and nonmetal mining deaths reported in 2002.
Of the 53 fatalities reported, 37 of those victims were killed in accidents on the surface at mining operations, while 16 miners died in underground mining mishaps.
Seventeen workers were killed in accidents involving powered haulage-some type of moving vehicle at the mine site-which was the leading cause of fatal mining accidents in the U.S. during 2004.
Accidents involving machinery claimed the lives of 10 miners.
Roof fall accidents in underground mines, a long-time safety nemesis for coal miners, killed three miners last year compared with two during 2003.
To view these statistics on the Internet, go to MSHA's Website at www.msha.gov . cl
This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws. The article may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior permission of Coal Leader, Inc. Copyright 2005, Coal Leader, Inc. All rights reserved.