- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

CALHOUN, Ky. (AP) - Coal production has begun at a new underground mine in western Kentucky.

Lexington-based Rhino Resource Partners announced on Wednesday that coal is being produced at Riveredge Mine in McLean County and commercial shipments should begin in a few weeks, The Messenger-Inquirer (https://bit.ly/1n8R7On) reported.

The company, which announced plans for the mine seven years ago, began excavations at the site last summer.

Officials have said they plan to employ about 200 workers by the end of 2015. They aim to produce 800,000 tons of coal during the first full year of operation and expand that to 2 million tons annually as the mine grows.

Coal production in western Kentucky mines has remained steady as mine operators in eastern Kentucky have cut thousands of workers in recent years. About 86 percent of the nearly 41 million tons of coal produced in western Kentucky in 2013 came from underground mines.

“Initial coal production commenced at the Riveredge Mine toward the end of May,” said Scott Morris, a Rhino vice president. “The coal preparation plant has been constructed, tested and is running on a limited basis to process coal.”

Morris said the company expects first commercial shipments of barge coal in the next few weeks. The mine currently employs about 55 full-time workers.

Morris said plans to expand depend on coal sales.

“The production level and number of employees are entirely dependent upon whether we can obtain customer contracts as acceptable prices,” Morris said. “This mine has the potential to produce at the rate of 2 million tons per year, but we will only produce that amount if we have the sales contracted.”

The first 800,000 tons will go to Louisville Gas & Electric, he said.

McLean County Judge-Executive Kelly Thurman said the mine production will have long-reaching benefits.

“The old economic theory is that a dollar turns over six or seven times in the community,” Thurman said. “It will have a super impact in McLean County and the area.”

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Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, https://www.messenger-inquirer.com

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