Mining a rich coal seam while managing the impact of operations
Armstrong Energy mines the rich coal seams of the United States’ Ohio River Valley, partnering with local Cat dealer Whayne Supply for equipment and support. The two organizations also share a focus on sustainability — recognizing the impact machines and mining operations have on the environments and communities where they operate.
For example, at Armstrong’s surface mine in Lewis Creek, Kentucky, reclamation is a daily process. Once the company’s underground site has finished extracting coal, that area will be reclaimed as well.
“We have a strict policy on reclamation: Leave it better than it was before,” says John Bruce, general superintendent for surface operations. “We want to return the land to its original state.”
This policy includes returning the land to its approximate original contour by moving earth and rebuilding hills. It also includes re-digging any streams, brooks or gullies that helped to naturally irrigate the land before Armstrong arrived.
“We want to make sure this land is capable of sustaining the natural ecosystem that was here before we were,” says Kenny Allen, Armstrong executive vice president of operations. “We have a duty to the people who’ve trusted us with it. We want to make sure we plant only native species, so we don’t upset the balance of the area. And we make sure all our reclamation efforts are sturdy enough to withstand a hundred-year storm, so they don’t collapse the first time the weather gets bad.”
In addition to efforts to reclaim the land it operates, Armstrong works hard to protect the air quality of the region. The company makes it a priority to purchase machines that are designed to reduce emissions as much as possible, and has participated in test projects of equipment that will meet the next generation of emissions standards.
Being a good neighbor
At the same time it works to minimize its impact on the environment, Armstrong focuses on increasing the positive impact it has on the communities where it operates. For example, the Lewis Creek mines are in Ohio County, an area that previously experienced very high unemployment rates. Since the mines began operation, unemployment has been reduced, thanks in part to177 workers employed on site, as well as the local businesses and industries that support the mine and its employees.
Whayne Supply and Whayne-Walker Underground (a new organization formed in partnership with Whayne’s sister company, Walker Machinery) also focus on providing employment opportunities. For example, the dealer sponsors area students participating in Caterpillar’s ThinkBIG dealer technician training program, and funds a scholarship program for local residents.
Both Armstrong and the dealer are active community members — donating time, leadership and funding to local organizations and charities. “Armstrong has received a lot of support from the state of Kentucky and the people who live in the communities where we work,” says Allen. “We owe it to them to help improve the area in any way we can, so that we can all enjoy this beautiful land for many years to come.”