Castle Gate Coal Mines
Index For This Page
This page was last updated on February 5, 2019.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
There was more than one coal mine at Castle Gate. In recent times, during the 1970s through the 1990s, a large group of buildings along the east side of the highway were identified as "Castle Gate Coal Company." This company worked mines on the west side of the highway. Other companies were involved over the years, but that was what was painted on the rail car loadout next to the highway. Although the coal actually came from several different openings, and alternating layers of coal (known as "seams"), they were all from the same general federal coal lease area, including underground connections with the Spring Canyon mines.
The succession of the various Castle Gate coal mines was:
- Utah Fuel Co. (1918-1951);
- Independent Coal & Coke (1951-1968);
- North American Coal Co. (1968-1973);
- Production stopped at Castle Gate in 1972;
- Valley Camp Coal Co. (1973-1974);
- Braztah Corp., as a subsidiary of McCulloch Oil Co. (1974-1975);
- Production started at Castle Gate in 1974;
- Braztah Corp., as a subsidiary of American Electric Power (1975-1979);
- Price River Coal Co., as a subsidiary of Braztah (1979-1984);
- Castle Gate Coal Co., as a subsidiary of Amax Coal (1986-89);
- Production at Castle Gate stopped in 1989;
- Amax Coal merged with Cyprus Minerals in 1993 to form Cyprus Amax Mineral company;
- Cyprus Minerals had already created the Cyprus Plateau company after it bought Plateau Mining Co. from Getty Oil in 1985. Plateau operated the Star Point (former Wattis) mine;
- Cyprus Plateau closed the Castle Gate mine, and started production from the new Willow Creek mine in 1998;
- Cyprus Plateau was sold to RAG American in 1999;
- Cyprus Plateau, as a subsidiary of RAG American, closed both the Star Point (Wattis) mine, and the Willow Creek mine in 2000
(Read more about Cyprus Amax, Cyprus Plateau, and the later RAG American Coal Company -- including the corporate succession to today's Alpha American Coal Company, LLC.)
The Star Point (Wattis) was reaching the end of its production, and Cyprus Plateau needed a new mine to fulfill the IPP contract. So they bought a new coal lease in Willow Creek canyon, and began developing the new Willow Creek mine in 1997, which went into production in 1998. Cyprus Plateau was sold to RAG American Coal Co. in 1999, including the new Willow Creek and the old Star Point mines. There was a fire in the Willow Creek mine on Aug 1, 2000, and the last coal was shipped in late September 2000.
Reclamation of the Willow Creek area (east side), and the Castle Gate area (west side), with the Price River being the dividing line, was completed in 2006. The Utah Division of Oil Gas & Mining, and its environmental division, kept a regulatory eye on the area (albeit completely scrambling the owning company names) from the mid 1970s, depending almost solely on volunteered information, and with very little actual on-the-ground inspection, other than ensuring the road drainage and settling ponds were satisfactory.
It was the Braztah Corp. that built the new buildings seen in photos from the late 1970s through the late 1990s. At the time, their newest mine was a shaft mine known as Utah Fuel No. 3, at the north end of the complex, but still west of the railroad tracks. The reclamation effort of the early 2000s removed most of the buildings and reclaimed the disturbed areas. Conveyor belts from the various mine openings fed mined coal to the southern-most loading tower, including a conveyor belt that exited the old Castle Gate No. 1 opening, carrying coal through a new 4,000-foot rock tunnel from the Sowbelly mine, which itself had been initially mined by the Spring Canyon Coal Co. This conveyor passed under the highway, and over the D&RGW tracks, at about the exact same spot as the old coal preparation plant of the 1920s to the late 1960s. A succession of south-to-north conveyor belts moved the coal up to pile loaders, and into the new preparation plant (the largest building), which in turn fed the loadout adjacent to the D&RGW mainline. The loadout was served by a Utah Ry. spur that paralleled the joint Utah Railway - D&RGW mainline.
Castle Gate, or Castlegate?
There has always been confusion over the way to spell the name. The original name comes from the narrow geologic formation in lower Price Canyon that both the Price River and the Denver and Rio Grande railroad passed through. Early references are actually to the station name on the railroad.
Using available online newspapers, the earliest newspaper accounts didn't begin until an item in the Deseret News on January 26, 1883 about a train wreck at the location. In the early references the name was almost always spelled with two words, "Castle Gate." The railroad's own timetables for its employees and the general public, used the two-word version. In newspaper railroad advertisements of train times, known as time cards, the station name was "Castle Gate," and that was what displayed on the station boards at the depot adjacent to the coal mine.
Beginning in mid 1891, "Castle Gate" was the trade name for the coal sold by Pleasant Valley Coal company, and later by Utah Fuel company.
The rock formation known as "Castle Gate," was about 1.7 miles north of the town and coal mine of the same name, although the town itself stretched almost the entire distance between the two ends. The town of Castle Gate, and the large coal mine and coal processing plant was at the southern end of a small valley, which ended with a pair of sharp curves for both the railroad and the river. Also at the southern end was a large coal-fired power plant built in 1954 and dismantled in 2016. At this same south end, from 1931 to 1964, there was a tunnel for the highway on the western side of a similar rock formation, though not as spectacular as the well-known "Gate" formation at the north end. The tunnel was removed in 1964, and was replaced by a long, deep cut.
It appears that the few times the spelling was one word, "Castlegate," the choice was likely up to the individual newspaper editor. In early 1896, there must have been a new editor at the Salt Lake Herald. After that time the name in the Herald was only the one-word version. As a side note, while the Herald and the later Herald-Republican, did a much better job at covering railroad-related and business-related events, the newspaper also continually misspelled numerous other place names and people's names across the state in news items.
The U. S. Geologic Survey, usually the final authority for place names, appears to be confused. In 1922 the USGS published its Bulletin 707, "Guidebook Of The Western United States, The Denver and Rio Grande Western Route." In that publication the rock formation was called "Castlegate." A second publication, Bulletin 793, "Economic Geology Of The Castlegate, Wellington, And Sunnyside Quadrangles, Carbon County, Utah," published in 1928, also used the single-word version. On the USGS maps, the Castle Gate map of 1914 in the 62500 series used the two-word version, and the updated 1972 edition in the 24000 series, titled as "Standardville," used the two-word version for the coal mine, and the rock formation, "The Castle Gate."
The Utah State Mine Inspector, and the Utah Industrial Commission both appear to only use the two-word version in all of their publications.
The local Carbon County newspapers used the two-word version. Local histories use the two-word version, including the 1948 Daughters of Utah Pioneers "Centennial Echos from Carbon County." A 1947 history by C. H. Madsen, former mayor of Price, which served as a major source for the 1948 DUP edition, used the one-word version, which was changed to the two-word version when the same text was used in the 1948 edition.
This web site will use the two-word version, "Castle Gate," unless specifically quoting an item, or (in the USGS example) when referring to the coal seams and the associated layers of sandstone.
Castle Gate Coal Mine
In his original 1881 survey for D&RGW, Micajah T. Burgess, the road's chief engineer, stated that a coal vein was located about a mile up Willow Creek. In his report, Burgess stated that development of the coal vein would require a 4,000 foot railroad spur line and a 1,100 foot gravity tramway from the mine. (D&RGW: 1881 Engineer's Report, p. 15)
Pleasant Valley Coal Company, operator of the Winters Quarters mine, in 1888 sent their chief engineer, Robert Forrester, with a party of men to prospect the coal veins which showed at the surface at Castle Gate. (Madsen, p. 29)
The first formal discovery of coal at Castle Gate came in 1888:
"In August, 1888, Alexander McLean and a few others made the actual discovery of coal in the mountains adjacent to the location of Castle Gate and commenced work at once. The first test of making coke was undertaken by these men in October, 1888, and as the experiment proved successful, a coal-mining town soon sprang into existence, and before the year was ended the first carload of coal was shipped from the mine so recently opened. Among the employees at the mines were Latter-day Saints, who were organized into a branch of the Church in November, 1888." (Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, p. 121)
The mine known as Castle Gate No. 1 was opened by the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in 1888 to develop the good coking coal found there. The first coke ovens in lower Castle Gate were opened in 1889. (Watts: First Mine, p. 39)
(Madsen, page 28, incorrectly states that Castle Gate No. 1 was opened soon after D&RGW's arrival at Castle Gate in 1883.)
The Castle Gate No. 1 mine portal was located about 600 feet southwest of the tipple.
Utah Fuel Company was organized in New Jersey in 1887 as a subsidiary of Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway (of Utah) to operate the Clear Creek and Sunnyside mines in Utah. The original Winter Quarters mine and the Castle Gate mine was operated by the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, which merged with Utah Fuel in 1899.
The Utah Fuel Co. erected ovens at Castle Gate, in 1888, to take care of the Montana trade, but after a brief period of operation, it was found that the coking property of the coal was rapidly deteriorating as the mine developed. An exhaustive examination of the entire property controlled by the Utah Fuel Co. resulted in the discovery of coking coal at Sunnyside. This coal does not possess uniform coking qualities, and it is necessary to disintegrate the slack to a fineness of less than 1/8 inch before the best results can be obtained. Slack from this mine is low in impurity, yielding coke carrying about 12 percent ash. (AIME Transactions, Volume 61, 1918-1919, page 430)
Utah Fuel Company remained a subsidiary of the railroad when it was reorganized as the Rio Grande Western in 1889, and was sold to the Denver & Rio Grande along with the Rio Grande Western in May 1901. The D&RG was forced to sell all of its stock in Utah Fuel in June 1918. The coal company was sold to William Salomon of New York for $4 million. (Athearn: Rio Grande, pp. 194, 195, 236)
The Pleasant Valley Coal and Coke company began operations of its coke ovens at Castle Gate in July 1889. By late December 1889, the company had shipped 780 tons of coke, mostly to the Germania smelter in Salt Lake valley. (Salt Lake Herald, December 25, 1889)
The Castle Gate Coal Company was incorporated on May 21, 1898. The corporation was voluntarily dissolved on November 8, 1950. (Utah corporation, index number 2233)
(This was the first of three companies with the Castle Gate Coal Company name, and may have been the name used by Utah Fuel for the Castle Gate mine.)
A. C. Watts, the chief engineer for Utah Fuel at the time, stated in a 1913 article that the coal deposits at Castle Gate on the mainline of the RGW were opened in 1889, and that the Castle Gate mine was the second commercial mine in Carbon County, after Winter Quarters. The Castle Gate mine was also notable because it was the first mine to sprinkle coal dust with water to control the fire hazard and the first to use electricity in a coal mine. (Watts: Carbon County, p. 400)
The first tipple at Castle Gate was built by World & Robertson in either 1889 or 1890, ("1890...just prior to this time"), just before they completed the Wasatch Store building, which contained the company offices. (Madsen, p. 29)
The first coke ovens at Castle Gate were built in 1889, and they were immediately put into commission producing coke for the Salt Lake smelters. (Madsen, p. 29)
In 1896 the 104 coke ovens at Castle Gate produced 20,448 tons of coke. The State Mine Inspector in his 1897 report called the Castle Gate operation the most extensive one in the state. The coke wasn't of the best quality, and was acceptable only until the coke from Sunnyside took its place. (Watts: First Mine, p. 39)
There were 201 coke ovens by November 1901, producing about 5,000 tons of coke per month. The coke was produced from slack shipped from the Sunnyside mine. (Higgins: Industries, p. 14)
January 16, 1902
One hundred coke ovens were being built at Sunnyside, to replace those at Castle Gate. This will reduce costs by not having to send Sunnyside coal to Castle Gate to be made into coke. "The present capacity of the company is 240 ovens." (Salt Lake Herald, January 16, 1902)
All coal from Sunnyside from 1899 to 1902 was sent to Castle Gate to be made into coke. In the years 1902-1903, 480 coke ovens were built at Sunnyside. These were increased to 550 in 1912, to 624 in 1914, and again to 713 ovens in 1917, although not all ovens were in operation at the same time. The first coke was produced at Sunnyside in April 1902, and the volume grew steadily until the late 1920s. In 1929 coking operations were practically suspended. Coke production was suspended at Castle Gate in 1905. (Madsen, p. 53)
In October 1907 the coke ovens at Castle Gate were closed. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, October 3, 1907, p. 3)
In November 1910, 201 coke ovens at Castle Gate were returned to production. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, November 3, 1910, p. 8)
By early 1910 Castle Gate was known as one of the first coal mines in the United States to demonstrate the possibilities of using electricity underground, including, along with the Sunnyside mine, the safety of "shot firing", or the use of electricity to remotely detonate the blasting of coal with all men out of the mine. (Harrington, p. 21)
(Willow Creek Canyon, which meets Price River Canyon at the Castle Gate rock formation, is the route of today's U. S. Highway 191 between Castle Gate and Duchesne. Utah Power and Light's Carbon Steam Generating Plant was at the mouth of Willow Creek canyon.)
In 1912 Castle Gate No. 2 was opened, located in Willow Creek canyon. (Watts: First Mine, p. 39)
The first coal seam opened by Utah Fuel in Willow Creek canyon was a disappointing four feet thick. Later explorations showed a twenty foot seam directly below, which was reached by a pair of rock tunnels. The coal from the Willow Creek (Castle Gate No. 2) mine was found to be the finest coal in the region. (Madsen, p. 29)
The Castle Gate No. 2 was located in Willow Creek canyon, about one mile from the Castle Gate tipple, and was hauled between mine and tipple by a "motor haulage road" that was 5,300 feet long. This tram road was 40-inch gauge and laid with 60-pound rail, and passed through two tunnels, one of which was 1,000 feet long, and a second tunnel that was 400 feet long. The average grade of the tram road was 2 percent.
The following comes from U. S. Bureau of Mines Information Circular 6747, "Use of Electric Power in Castle Gate No. 2 Mine, Utah Fuel Co.," October 1933:
- Castle Gate No. 2 mine was operating in the Castle Gate D seam, 24 feet thick
- Coal seam dipped 10 percent (10 feet in 100 feet) to the north
- Mine portal was at 6,131 feet above sea level
- Mine employed 200 men
- Mine produced 3,000 tons per day
- Trolley wire was 6-1/2 feet above the rail
During the summer of 1912 a steel tipple was erected at the Castle Gate mine, being the second steel tipple in the state, and also the second steel tipple for a Utah Fuel mine. (Watts: Carbon County, p. 404)
The steel tipple of the Castle Gate Coal Company was built by the Ottumwa Box Car Loader Company. (Lewis, p. 19)
The new steel tipple at Castle Gate had a capacity of 2,000 tons per day. (Robert S. Lewis, "The Book Cliffs Coal Field, Utah," AIME Transactions, Volume 50, 1914, page 658)
May 23, 1912
Utah Fuel had five mines operating in Utah. The company was building fifty cottages for workers at Willow Creek for the opening of production of that new mine. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, May 23, 1912, p. 5)
"At the Winter Quarters mine of the Utah Fuel Co., in the Pleasant Valley district, the first steel tipple and screening plant was built in the winter of 1909-1910. At the Castle Gate mine of the same company the second steel tipple and screening plant was built in the summer of 1912, while the third installation of this kind is being erected by the Spring Canyon Coal Co." (A. C. Watts, "Coal Mining in Carbon County, Utah," in Coal Age, March 15, 1913, page 404)
July 17, 1913
The U. S. government filed suit against D&RG over its ownership of Utah Fuel. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, July 17, 1913)
(RESEARCH: Find court proceedings for U. S. government suit against D&RG and Utah Fuel, circa July 1913.)
(Mr. T. A. Ketchum filed a suit against Pleasant Valley Coal Company, Utah Fuel Company, and D&RG. (Coal Index: News-Advocate, December 24, 1915, p. 1) Ketchum was from Portland, Oregon, and organized the Ketchum Coal Company at Castle Gate. The mine was under development in July 1914. -- Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1914, p. 32; August 15, 1914, p. 28)
(RESEARCH: Find proceedings for Ketchum's suit against Utah Fuel, Pleasant Valley Coal and D&RG, circa December 1915.)
Castle Gate mines 1 and 2 were located on opposite sides of the canyon from each other. The opening for Castle Gate No. 1 was about 600 feet southwest of the tipple, which straddled D&RG's mainline between Price and Salt Lake City. The opening for the No. 2 mine was in Willow Creek canyon, about mile to the northeast, and the coal mined there traveled to the tipple over a 5,300 foot long electric haulage tram, being pulled by an electric 15-ton General Electric mine locomotive. The gauge of this tramway was forty inches and it was built on a two percent grade in favor of the loaded mine cars, from the mine down Willow Creek canyon, to the Castle Gate loading tipple. The tramway passed through two tunnels, one was 1,000 feet long and the other, 400 feet. The tipple at Castle Gate screened the coal into four different sizes: dust coal passed through a 3/8-inch screen; screened slack was from 3/8-inch to 1-5/8 inch; nut coal was from 1-5/8-inch to 6-inch; and lump was everything greater than 6-inch. A box car loader was used to load nut and lump coal into box cars. During mid 1914, output of the No. 1 mine was about 850 tons per day and about 600 tons per day from the No. 2 mine. (Lewis, pp. 19,20)
In 1922 Castle Gate No. 3 was opened. The new mine was located between Castle Gate and the Bear canyon mine to the north, and was the first vertical shaft coal mine in Utah. (Madsen, p. 29)
(PHOTOGRAPHS: Photo of Castle Gate No. 2, the Willow Creek mine, was in Coal Age, Volume 3, number 33, January 18, 1913, p. 90)
(PHOTOGRAPH: Castle Gate mine with wooden tipple, Wilson, p. 114, from Colorado Historical Society.)
Castle Gate mine explosion killed 180 men on March 8, 1924. (Coal Index: The Sun, March 14, 1924, p. 1)
Casualties were changed to 171 killed. (Coal Index: The Sun, March 21, 1924, p. 1)
By late July 1924, the mine was declared safe by the state mine inspector and was reopened. (Coal Index: The Sun, July 25, 1924)
The Castle Gate mines, both No. 1 and No. 2, started to work five days a week in late November 1933, until the end of February 1934. The average daily output of the mines was 2,500 tons. (Coal Index, Sun Advocate, November 30, 1933, p. 8)
Castle Gate No. 3, the vertical shaft mine, was closed due to flooding.
July 15, 1937
"Engulfed in a 20 foot chasm when torrential rain undermined its foundation, the fan house at No. 3 mine of the Utah Fuel Co. at Castle Gate plunged sixty feet down an air shaft Saturday at 1:30 p.m." (Helper Journal, July 15, 1937, "Saturday" was July 10, 1937)
(The same "cloudburst" an hour later caused flooding and and landslides in three spots along a four-mile stretch of U. S. 50 in lower Spanish Fork canyon at Cold Springs, closing the highway for three days and stranding over 300 cars.)
March 17, 1938
"Castle Gate No. 3 Closes; Fall Reopening Considered" "Officials reported Thursday [March 17th] the company had originally planned to close the mine permanently but has now decided to resume activity this fall if the market is favorable." "Tracks and material from one section of mine No. 3 at Castlegate were removed, but the remainder of the mine has been left intact." "If production is again started, the untouched portion will be the only one used. the section stripped of equipment will probably never be mined again." (Salt Lake Telegram, March 17, 1938)
June 27, 1939
Utah Fuel company announced that it had contracted with the Link-Belt company for the construction of a steel tipple and coal processing plant capable of washing, cleaning and sizing 4,000 tons per day. The cost was reported as $300,000, with completion in four months. The Link-Belt Simon-Carves system was to be used. (Coal Age magazine, August 1939, page 59)
Construction of the new washing and cleaning plant started in September 1939, and a test run was made on February 13, 1940. Dedication ceremonies were held on February 24th. The washed and cleaned coal contained about one-third the ash and fly-ash, as well as lighter and smaller clinkers. (Coal Age magazine, June 1940, page 43)
February 24, 1940
Utah Fuel opened a new $300,000 coal washing and preparation plant at Castle Gate on February 24, 1940. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, February 15, 1940)
(The new cleaning and washing plant of Utah Fuel company at Castle Gate was the subject of a five-page article in Coal Age magazine, July 1940, including several photos of the process and machinery, and a flowchart of the washing and cleaning process.)
(The new cleaning and washing plant of Utah Fuel company at Castle Gate was the subject of a seven-page article in Mining Congress Journal magazine, December 1940, including several photos of the process and machinery, and a flowchart of the washing and cleaning process.)
The new Castle Gate coal plant produced coal that had been cleaned of dirt and rock, washed, and treated with oil to enhance its market value. (Madsen, p. 31)
(The maintenance of the machinery used in Utah Fuel company's Castle Gate No. 2 coal mine were the subject of a five-page article in Coal Age magazine, September 1942. The article included several photos of the machine shops and tools used to maintain the mine's cars and locomotives.)
(The underground mining methods of the Utah Fuel company's Castle Gate mine were the subject of a three-page article in Coal Age magazine, June 1945. The article included a few photos of the underground operations, and a diagram of the mine workings.)
By 1947 the Castle Gate No. 1 mine had been closed because of a fire, and Castle Gate No. 3 had also been closed, leaving the No. 2 mine (in Willow Creek canyon) as the only producer. (Madsen, p. 29)
Kaiser Steel Corporation
In 1950 Kaiser bought Utah Fuel, and operated the properties at Sunnyside, Clear Creek and Castle Gate as the Utah Fuel Division of Kaiser Steel. Kaiser later sold the Castle Gate and Clear Creek operations to Independent Coal & Coke, which later sold both operations to North American Coal Company. North American later sold the Castle Gate property to McCulloch Oil Company, and the Clear Creek property to Valley Camp Coal Company. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 5)
Utah Fuel Company, incorporated on April 17, 1901, became the Book Cliffs Coal Corporation on March 5, 1951. (Utah corporation, index number 3111)
Utah Fuel Company was merged with Book Cliffs Coal Corporation, a Kaiser subsidiary, on December 5, 1950. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 15-D, p. 4)
Book Cliffs Coal Corporation was merged with Kaiser Steel Corporation on February 23, 1951. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 15-D, p. 59)
Independent Coal & Coke Co.
November 19, 1951
Independent Coal and Coke company purchased the Castle Gate and Clear Creek mines of Utah Fuel Company. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 13, 1962, citing the most recent annual report summarizing the 10-year period since the purcahse)
In December 1951 the Independent Coal & Coke Company purchased the holdings of the Utah Fuel Company, including the mine at Clear Creek, and the mine and coal washing plant at Castle Gate. At that time, most of the coal being mined from Kenilworth was being transported around the mountain by rail from Kenilworth to the Castle Gate coal washing plant. (HAER: Kenilworth, pp. 27,28)
Utah Power & Light constructed its Carbon Steam Generating Plant at Castle Gate in the mid 1950s. The first unit went into operation in November 1954, and the second unit came on line in August 1957. (McCormick: UP&L, p. 121)
In 1958 Independent Coal & Coke began a 5,000 foot rock tunnel that was drilled north from the 1924-built Aberdeen tunnel to the main slope of the former Utah Fuel Willow Creek mine. With the completion of this new tunnel in 1959, coal was gravity fed down to the Castle Gate mine's main haulage tunnels and exited at the Castle Gate portals, adjacent to the coal washing plant, eliminating the cost of hauling coal around the mountain by railroad. (HAER: Kenilworth, pp. 27,28)
(The surface workings of the Castle Gate No. 2 mine in Willow Creek canyon are approximately 3.5 miles in a straight line northwest of the surface workings of the Kenilworth mine.)
February 4, 1960
Castle Gate No. 2 was officially closed on February 4, 1960, the same date that the new Castle Gate No. 4 was officially opened. The old Castle Gate No. 2 would after that date only be used as a main artery between the Kenilworth and Castle Gate mines. With the closure of the No. 2 mine, all workings were sealed and the track gauge changed from forty inches to forty-two inches. Work on a tunnel to connect the Kenilworth workings with the Castle Gate workings was to be completed in March 1960. (Deseret News, February 5, 1960)
(The underground mining methods, and the underground rock tunnel connecting the Kenilworth workings with the Castle Gate workings were the subject of a five-page article in Coal Age magazine, April 1962. The article included several photos of the underground operations, and a diagram of the connecting tunnel.)
The tunnel would permit moving of Kenilworth coal to the Castle Gate facilities and eliminate tipple work at Kenilworth, and eliminate the high cost of railroad transportation between Kenilworth and Castle Gate. Kenilworth was producing about 1,800 to 2,000 tons per day, and Clear Creek was producing about 800 tons per day. Operations at the mines of the Independent Coal & Coke Company were reduced due to the depressed coal market, with the company cutting back from a five day week to a four day week, and laying off ninety-one miners from their operations, fifty from Castle Gate, twenty-eight from Kenilworth, and thirteen from Clear Creek.
The new rock tunnel connecting the Kenilworth property with the Castle Gate property was 6,000 feet long. It was constructed at the same 11 percent (11 feet in 100 feet) down grade that existed between the Kenilworth 'D Seam,' and the old Castle Gate No. 2 mine opening. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 12, 1961; the accompanying graphic showed the tunel as being 5,000 feet long)
North American Coal Co.
(1967 to 1973)
(North American Coal Company was a well-established coal supplier in the Ohio and West Virginia region, dating back to the turn of 20th century, circa 1900.)
November 6, 1967
"Coal Firm Sale -- Cleveland -- (UPI) North American Coal Corp. has agreed in principle to buy Independent Coal & Coke Co. of Salt Lake City for $4.4 million. (San Francisco Examiner, November 6, 1967)
November 19, 1967
"Coal Firms Merge -- Cleveland -- The North American Coal Corp. has acquired the Independent Coal & Coke Co. of Salt Lake City in a cash transaction. North American, a major coal producer had sales of $32 million last year and Independent had sales of $4 million. (Fort Lauderdale News, November 19, 1967)
December 29, 1967
The shareholders of Independent Coal and Coke company met at Evanston, Wyoming, for a special shareholders meeting to vote of the complete dissolution of the company, and the sale of its assets to North American Coal Corporation. The sale was approved, 73 percent for, and 3 percent against. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 30, 1967)
(Available online newspapers do not show a specific date the transfer of ownership took place, but by January 11, 1968, North American Coal had installed its own general manager of its new Utah Division.)
After buying the Castle Gate property from Independent Coal & Coke Company in 1968, North American Coal closed the Castle Gate mine in 1972 when Utah Power & Light purchased the Deseret Mine from the LDS church to supply coal for power generation. At its peak the North American mine produced about 650,000 tons, about 375,000 tons of that production was sold to Utah Power & Light and was used at the Carbon Steam Generating Plant. North American Coal sold the same properties to an undisclosed company (Valley Camp) in February 1973. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 1973)
June 13, 1973
Utah Power & Light announced the creation of a new department to mine its own coal supplies. The shareholders approved the move at the annual meeting in May 1973. UP&L had purchased the Deseret coal mine from the LDS church in 1972.
Utah Power & Light created a new Department of Exploration and Mining "to help assure supply and variety of available power generation fuels." The following comes from the September 1973 issue of Coal Age magazine, page 44:
Utah Power & Light Co. has decided to form a new Department of Exploration & Mining to help assure supply and variety of available power generation fuels. E. A. Hunter, president, said the utility is taking the action because coal lands are becoming more difficult to obtain, and other industries are making strong acquisition moves. Last year. UP&L purchased the Deseret mine from the Latter Day Saints. Operated by American Coal Co., the mine supplies three steam-electric plants—Carbon, Hale and Gadsby.
Donald Watkins, company engineer for the past 22 years, will be manager of the new department. with primary responsibility for initiation and implementation of exploration, acquisition, development and management of fuel and basic energy resources. Shareholders have laid the groundwork for such an organization by amending company articles of incorporation to permit development, use and sale of natural resources including the business of mining, drilling, pumping, piping, producing and selling coal, petroleum, oil and gas, uranium and geothermal energy.
February 17, 1973
North American Coal company announced that it had sold an option to an undisclosed company for the purchase of its Utah coal operations. The option was to expire on June 1, 1973. Robert E. Murray was vice president of North American Coal. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 1973)
Valley Camp Coal Co.
(June to December 1973)
Over the years of history, there had been a total of five active coal mines at Castle Gate. The last one closed in 1971. The property, including the mines at Castle Gate and the mines in Clear Creek canyon, was sold to North American Coal Company, which in turn sold them to Valley Camp Coal Company. Valley Camp kept the Clear Creek property, and gave an option on the Castle Gate property to McCulloch Oil Company. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 25, 1974)
The Valley Camp ownership of the Castle Gate mines was for a very short period, from June to December 1973, when Valley Camp sold the Castle Gate coal properties to McCulloch Oil Company.
"North American Coal Corp, has granted Valley Camp Coal Co. an option to purchase North American's properties near Price, Utah. Otes Bennett Jr., president, pointed out that the company closed its Castle Gate mine near Price about a year ago when it was unable to negotiate the higher prices necessary to offset increased operating costs resulting from the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act." (Coal Age magazine, June 1973, page 46)
June 27, 1973
"Valley Camp completes coal purchase -- The Valley Camp Coal Company completed its purchase of the Utah properties formerly owned by The North American Coal Corporation on June 27. It was announced by Herbert S. Richey, president of Valley Camp, the properties are located near Castle Gate, Clear Creek and Kenilworth and consist of coal reserves and mines which have been inactive for the past year."' (Helper Journal, July 5, 1973)
McCulloch Oil Co.
(1973 to 1975)
The following comes from documents on file at the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Permit C0070004, "Castle Gate Mine", Chapter 3, Section 3.5, Castle Gate Mine, Adit No.1; November 1996:
The original Castle Gate No. 1 portals were first opened in 1888 by the Pleasant Valley Coal Company (later the Utah Fuel Company), to access the Castle Gate 'A' Seam. One of the first major mining operations in the Book Cliffs, this mine operated in the A, C, and D Seams until 1928, when a mine fire forced a shutdown. At that time, the mine was sealed about 6,500 feet back (west) from the portals.
The two No. 1 portals remained closed until 1975-76, when McCulloch Oil Company renovated the first 4,400 feet of both portals and drove a rock tunnel down to the Castle Gate Sub 3 Seam, which had been worked by Carbon Fuel through its portal in Hardscrabble canyon. A conveyor belt was installed in the rock tunnel and out through the south portal to transport coal to the Castle Gate Preparation Plant, under construction at that time. The new conveyor belt traveled out of the old portal to a hopper transfer station just west of U. S. 50-6, where the coal descended 35 feet to a second conveyor belt in a tube that traveled under U.S. Highway 50-6, and over the Price River and the D&RGW tracks to the new coal preparation plant.
The two portals were sealed in 1991.
The following comes from documents on file at the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Permit C0070004, "Castle Gate Mine".
The Castle Gate Mine Complex includes 7619 acres. The complex consisted of various separate areas including: the Hardscrabble Mine facilities (reclaimed), the Sowbelly site (reclaimed), the Eastern Coal Reserves and the Adit #1 Mine, formerly Utah Fuel No. 1.
In 1997, the Schoolhouse Canyon Refuse Area, the Castle Gate Wash Plant, and Crandall Canyon were split from the Castle Gate permit and made part of the new Willow Creek Mine permit area.
The Castle Gate Mine area has a history of various mining operations producing coal since the turn of the century. Consolidated mining activities began in 1971 (under North American ownership), conducted by the Braztah Corporation, which in turn became the Price River Coal Company in 1979, then Castle Gate Coal Company in 1986, Amax Coal Company in 1991, Amax Coal Holding Company in 1996, and Castle Gate Holding Company in 1998. Reclamation started in 1992 in Sowbelly Canyon and 1993 through 1999 in Hardscrabble Canyon.
McCulloch Oil Corp. or its subsidiary, Braztah Corp., acquired and assigned nine Utah leases during the 1970s. All were obtained by the oil company from independent coal companies and by 1979, all were controlled by American Electric Power Co. (AEP). In 1974. McCulloch obtained four leases by assignment which were then assigned to AEP later that year. Two, obtained by McCulloch in the same fashion, were assigned in 1974 to Braztah and then assigned to AEP in 1976. One was obtained by assignment directly by Braztah in 1972 and assigned to AEP in 1976. The remaining two were segregated in 1974 to McCulloch from leases owned by an independent coal company, assigned to Braztah in 1974 and assigned to AEP in 1976. (Patterns and trends in federal coal lease ownership, 1950-80, page 45; Federal Office of Technology Assessment, in accordance with Public Law 94-377, requiring a complete analysis of all federal coal leases)
(Research suggests that these coal leases were all for coal lands east and west of the town of Castle Gate, including coal lands in Hardscrabble Canyon, formerly Carbon Fuel, and coal lands in Sowbelly Canyon, former Spring Canyon Coal Co. Coal lands east of Castle Gate were separated in 1997 and were developed by Cyprus Plateau as the new Willow Creek mine.)
(American Electric Power was the renamed, in 1958, American Gas and Electric Company, that owned five electric companies in the Midwest, serving 1,350,000 customers in seven states, including Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The name change was approved by shareholders in April 1958.
(In 1971, Carbon Fuel was sold to McCulloch Oil Corporation, which renamed the operational company as Braztah Corporation.) (Branson v. Price River Coal Co., U. S. District Court, District of Utah, 627 F. Supp. 1324, Decided February 3, 1986)
September 10, 1973
Braztah Corporation applied to the federal Bureau of Land Management to lease slightly more than 1,172 cares about two miles north of the old Castle Gate townsite. (Deseret News, September 10, 1973)
September 25, 1973
The association of McCulloch Oil and American Electric Power started in September 1973 when the two signed a letter of intent for McCulloch to furnish a peak of six million tons annually for 20 years, a total of 130 million tons at a value of one billion dollars. The deliveries were to be by train, with 1.25 million tons to be delivered during 1974, from the Carbon Fuel mine loadout at Martin. (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 25, 1973; Helper Journal, September 27, 1973)
December 28, 1973
McCulloch Oil acquired the former North American Coal property at Castle Gate, including the mines, the coal preparation plant, and the town site of Castle Gate. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 25, 1974)
December 28, 1973
"McCulloch purchases mining land -- Salt Lake -- McCulloch Oil Corporation here on December 28 reportedly signed a contract to purchase a large portion of mining property from Valley Camp Coal Company. A spokesman would not disclose a figure. McCulloch Oil purchased the option on the land from Valley Camp in September. Valley Camp has kept its Clear Creek mine which it plans to open in the future, the spokesman added. (Helper Journal, January 3, 1974)
December 31, 1973
McCulloch Oil's stock was the second-most-active stock on the American Stock Exchange on Monday, December 31, 1973, after it announced it would buy $5 million worth of properties from Valley Camp Coal Company of Utah, primarily coal reserves. (Abilene Reporter, January 1, 1974, "Monday")
February 18, 1974
"Buys Coal Property -- Castle Gate, UPI -- McCulloch Oil Corp. has purchased the holdings of Valley Camp Coal Co. in Utah for $5 million. The property near here has estimated coal reserves of 75 million tons." (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 18, 1974)
McCulloch Oil organized the Braztah Corporation to operate and manage its newly acquired coal property in Utah. McCulloch Oil was a publicly traded subsidiary of the McCulloch Corporation, best known for its chain saws, along with two-cycle engines for other applications. The company founder, Robert P. McCulloch, was president of McCulloch Oil Company at the time of his death in February 1977. McCulloch was also known as the guy who purchased the stone London Bridge and moving it to Lake Havasu, Arizona. He sold the chain saw business to Black & Decker in 1973 for $68 million. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 26, 1977)
March 18, 1974
Braztah Corporation, with its headquarters in Houston, Texas, was registered to do business in California.
April 16, 1974
The original coal prep plant and loadout of the former Independent Coal and Coke company at Castle Gate was demolished starting on Tuesday April 16th, to make way for the all-new prep plant and loadout. (Helper Journal, April 18, 1974)
Braztah Corp., subsidiary of McCulloch Oil Co., bought the Castle Gate-Kenilworth property from North American Coal. Braztah had already purchased Carbon Fuel Mine in Hardscrabble Canyon and reserves north of Spring Canyon. Braztah agrees to supply 1,250,000 tpy to American Electric Power, and plans to produce 6 million tpy within four years. (Coal Age, Volume 79, Number 5, May 1974, pages 94-95)
The properties acquired by McCulloch Oil, and managed by its new Braztah subsidiary included the old Carbon Fuel Company (in Hardscrabble Canyon), acquired in 1971, and several adjacent properties of the Valley Camp Coal Company and Spring Canyon Coal Company, "acquired in recent months." (Ogden Standard Examiner, June 30, 1974)
(Braztah developed four new mines, known as Braztah 3, 4, 5, and 6. All of the production of what was known as the Braztah complex was shipped solely to power plants of American Electric Power, making the mines "captive," with their production not being offered to any markets.)
June 20, 1974
McCulloch Oil Company reached an agreement with American Electric Power Company to furnish AEP's subsidiary Indiana & Michigan Electric Power with 140 million tons of coal. The coal was to be produced by McCulloch's Utah-based coal producing subsidiary, Braztah Corporation. Braztah's coal properties were a combination of several former mining operations in the Helper, Utah area. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 20, 1974)
June 21, 1974
The potential long-term contract between McCulloch Oil's Braztah subsidiary, and American Electric Power meant that it became a "captive" mine, which in turn meant that Braztah could no longer sell coal on the competitive market. The Utah Public Utilities Commission set June 21, 1974 as the final day of sales to the public in the Price /Helper area, for private individuals to buy coal directly at the mine mouth at the Carbon Fuel mine in Hardscrabble canyon. The long-term contract called for a total of 140 million tons to be delivered by rail over the next 25 years. Under terms of the contract the coal was to be trucked from the Carbon Fuel mine, to Castle Gate where it would be loaded into eastbound D&RGW rail cars. The production was to be 800,000 tons for the first year, and increasing to 6.5 million tons per year in 1982. (Helper Journal, June 27, 1974, "last Friday")
June 29, 1974
The coal from Braztah for the AEP contract was to be shipped by two 100-car unit trains per day from a loading station at Helper to barge loading stations on the Mississippi River for delivery to AEP power plants. The first year was to see 800,000 tons shipped (twice the 1973 production), building to 6.5 million tons per year. The operation was projected to have a life cycle of twenty-five years. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 29, 1974)
The coal from the Carbon Fuel mine in Hardscrabble canyon was trucked to Martin for loading until the mine closed in the late 1980s. Reclamation of the Hardscrabble mine started in 1993 and was completed in 1999.
Mid September 1974
With the move of Castle Gate residents' houses to be completed by mid-October, Braztah began surveying and preparing bids to open a coal mine in Barn Canyon, on the south side of the Castle Gate site. Bids had already been sent for the construction of a "huge processing plant, for washing, crushing, tippling, and a unit coal train loading of coal." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 25, 1974)
November 7, 1974
The final contract between McCulloch Oil and AEP went into effect "last week" (late October 1974) allowing McCulloch and Braztah to obtain financing based on the existence of the long-term contract. Financing was needed to build the new facilities at Castle Gate, and to develop the underground infrastructure within the mines themselves, as well as moving the residents of the town of Castle Gate. (Helper Journal, November 7, 1974)
During 1974, Braztah produced 352,000 tons of coal, and was targeted to double that amount during 1975. (The Amarillo Globe Times, October 20, 1975)
In 1975, as part of a renegotiation of the coal contract between McCulloch Oil, Braztah, and American Electric Power Corporation, ownership of the mines themselves was transferred to AEP, with Braztah being retained to do the mining and produce the coal. On November 30, 1979, full ownership and operation of the mines was transferred from Braztah Mines to AEP, superseding the 1975 contract. (Gomez v. American Electric Power Service Corporation and McCulloch Oil Corporation, U. S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, January 30, 1984, 726 F.2d 649)
Price River Coal Co.
(American Electric Power subsidiary)
(1975 to 1986)
In 1975, as part of a renegotiation of the coal contract between McCulloch Oil, Braztah, and American Electric Power Corporation, ownership of the mines themselves was transferred to AEP, with Braztah being retained to do the mining and produce the coal. On November 30, 1979, full ownership and operation of the mines was transferred from Braztah Mines to AEP, superseding the 1975 contract. (Gomez v. American Electric Power Service Corporation and McCulloch Oil Corporation, U. S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, January 30, 1984, 726 F.2d 649)
September 12, 1975
The Castle Gate loading station was loading a fifty-five car unit train every other day, with two fifty-five car trains being joined into a single 110-car train at Pueblo for the trip to the Mississippi River. By October 1975 the company expected to begin loading a train per day. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 12, 1975)
September 16, 1975
McCulloch Oil named William H. Haynes, Jr. as vice president and CEO of McCulloch Oil's wholly-owned Utah coal-producing subsidiary Braztah Corporation. Prior to moving to Braztah, Haynes, a mining engineer with more than 20 years experience, had been the top engineer of all the affiliated coal mines of The Southern Company. At the time, C. V. Wood, Jr., was president of both McCulloch Oil and Braztah. (Edwardville Intelligencer, September 16, 1975)
Braztah signed a contract with Dravo Corporation for the construction of a coal preparation plant at Castle Gate. Construction was to start "soon" (September 1976), and be completed in late 1977. "The plant will produce about 1,100 tons per hour which will be loaded at Castle Gate to be shipped by rail to AEP plants in the Midwest." (Helper Journal, September 1, 1976)
October 14, 1976
A brief strike by three different unions shut down the two mines in production at the time, Braztah No. 3 and Braztah No. 5, along with the unit train loading facility being operated by Western Coal Carrier Corporation under subcontract to Braztah. (Ogden Standard Examiner, October 14, 1976)
1979 to 1984
The following comes from a court case in 1986:
December 1979 -- Price River Coal Company operated two underground coal mines, a coal preparation plant and office facilities in Helper, Utah. Price River, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Electric Power, shipped the coal to fuel generating plants of its parent company.
During 1981, depressed economic conditions in the parent company's service area resulted in a marked decrease in the demand for power and thus for coal. Price River was forced to curtail its mining operation and reduce its work force, which it did in three phases over a three-month period during late 1982.
-- First phase occurred in October 1982 when Price River closed one of the operating mines and laid off the mine's work force.
-- Second phase occurred in mid November 1982 connection with preparation for shutdown of the second active mine.
-- The third and final phase occurred at the end of December 1982, at which time the Price River Coal company stopped all mining activities in the second mine, reduced the company's work force and kept the company's operations on a care and maintenance basis only. At the close of 1982, Price River had reduced its work force by 87 percent, from 585 employees to 77.
Price River experienced a moderate upswing in business, but by the end of 1984 it had further reduced its total work force to 40 employees.
(Branson v. Price River Coal Co., U. S. District Court, District of Utah, 627 F. Supp. 1324, Decided February 3, 1986)
Castle Gate Coal Co.
(1986 to 1991) (Amax Coal)
February 11, 1986
The underground mines and surface preparation plant of Price River Coal company at Castle Gate, has been acquired by Castle Gate Coal company, a subsidiary of Amax Coal, Inc. Amax announced that it expected to re-open the mines later in 1986, "this year." The previous owner had shut down the No. 3 mine in Hardscrabble canyon in 1984, and the No. 5 mine (accessible through Spring Canyon) last December. (Deseret News, February 12, 1986; Salt Lake Tribune, February 12, 1986)
"Amax Coal Plans to Reopen Price River as Castle Gate -- Amax Coal Co. expects to resume mining in August or September at coal properties near Helper, Utah, it recently acquired from American Electric Power Supply Corp. (AEP)" "About 20 workers are preparing to reopen the mines formerly operated as Price River Coal Co. Amax has renamed the operation the Castle Gate Coal Co." "The AEP properties, two mines and a preparation plant, have been idle since December 1984." "Amax is acquiring about 70 million tons of reserves at the No. 3 and No. 5 mines in Hardscrabble and Spring canyons. AEP is retaining about the same amount of reserves." (Coal Age, Volume 91, Number 6, June 1986, page 33)
May 9, 1988
"98 Laid Off at Castle Gate -- Associated Press -- The Castle Gate Coal Co. has laid off 86 hourly and 12 salaried employees at its underground mine due to depressed market conditions, the company has announced. The layoffs leave 155 hourly and salaried workers at the mine. The company decided to reduce its operating level below the 1.5 million tons annual capacity and to concentrate efforts on existing customers and commitments, according to a news release. Castle Gate has been developing and rehabilitating the mine since 1986 and recently finished installing a new unit train rapid-loadout system. The company also has signed two new agreements to supply coal to industrial users in California, the release said." (Deseret News, May 9, 1988)
June 28, 1988
"AMAX Creates Subsidiary To Manage Coal Interests -- Officials of AMAX Inc., which has mining operations in Utah, Wyoming and the Midwest, have created a new wholly owned subsidiary, Amax Coal Industries, that will be responsible for managing the company's coal and coal-related business interests. The AMAX subsidiaries that will come under the Amax Coal Industries umbrella are Amax Coal Co., Amax Coal Sales Co., Castle Gate Coal Co., Beech Coal Co., Meadowlark Inc., Ayrshire Land Co. and Ayrshire Collieries Corp. AMAX is the third largest coal producer in the United States, producing 38.6 million tons for steam generation in 1987." (Deseret News, June 28, 1988)
March 22, 1989
"Production Halted At Mine Near Helper -- UPI -- Castle Gate Coal Co., a subsidiary of AMAX Coal Industries, has indefinitely suspended production at the Castle Gate Mine near Helper, Utah, due to geologic problems, spokesman Jeffrey Weber says. Mining operations were halted March 22 after the U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a citation for hazardous coal and rock bursts, Weber said. Thomas Blangiardo, president of Castle Gate, said the mine has experienced unusual geologic conditions for the past several months. 'These bursts currently present an uncontrollable and unstable mining environment for our employees,' Blangiardo said. 'We have evaluated and attempted various methods for destressing the coal to overcome this problem and have retained outside consultants to assist us in this process. However, to date, we have been unable to satisfactorily resolve this situation to the point where we can safely resume operations,' he said. 'We plan to continue evaluating geologic conditions and mining techniques in the hope of resuming mining operations at Castle Gate in the future.' Although coal production has been suspended, Blangiardo said the company will resume certain work, effective Monday, involving coal preparation, maintenance and other related activities. But after June 5, only about 17 of the mine's employees will remain at the property, while 156 hourly and 41 salaried workers will be indefinitely laid off, Swenson said. Castle Gate began operating the mine in 1986 and produced 544,000 tons of coal in 1988, he said." (Deseret News, April 9, 1989; April 13, 1989)
August 23, 1991
The following comes from the August 23, 1991 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper:
Castle Gate - AMAX Coal Industries is closing mine portals and other access points at its Castle Gate Coal Co. mine, idled two years ago. The company is taking the action to prevent accidents from unauthorized entry, spokesman Kevin Feeney said.
The mine will retain its operating status of "idle," allowing management to take a "hard look" at reopening if it could sell coal competitively, he said.
That likely will involve correcting the underground geological problems that led to the mine's closure or making a large expenditure to develop other coal reserves. At today's prices, such corrective measures would make the coal non-competitive.
The 1989 idling of Castle Gate Coal put 156 hourly and 41 salaried employees out of work.
Castle Gate Coal is maintaining its state mining permit in "inactive status," according to Lowell Braxton, associate director of mining for the Utah Division of Oil Gas & Mining. That means the mine doesn't have to remain active, but it must continue to meet state and federal environmental regulations as if it were operating, he said. "It's not unusual for companies like Castle Gate Coal to be in inactive status with the permit for a number of years as they evaluate their future," said Mr. Braxton. "But we still inspect the companies' mines on a monthly basis, and if they aren't complying with state and federal environmental regulations, we take action."
AMAX "indefinitely suspended" mining at Castle Gate Coal because it couldn't stop the unpredictable explosion of coal and rock at the face of its Hardscrabble Canyon mine, just north of Helper, Carbon County. Four months earlier, the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration had cited the company for hazardous coal and rock bursts. AMAX retained outside consultants to evaluate and "de-stress" the coal. But the company decided to idle the operation because the mine was unsafe.
In 1987, the last full year it operated, Castle Gate Coal produced 529,000 tons. That compares with 544,000 tons in 1988. AMAX originally projected Castle Gate Coal would produce 1.5 million tons a year. But that was before the geological problems made it impossible for mining to continue.
The combined mining activities of the Castle Gate mine began in 1971, conducted by the Braztah Corporation, which in turn became the Price River Coal Company in 1979, then Castle Gate Coal Company in 1986, then Amax Coal Company in 1991, then Amax Coal Holding Company in 1996, and Castle Gate Holding Company in 1998. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Permit C0070004)
After the Castle Gate mine ended production in 1989, and was closed in 1991, the Castle Gate coal preparation plant and train loading facility remained in place. It was part of the assets of Amax Coal when the company merged with Cyprus Plateau in 1993, to form Cyprus Amax Minerals company.
The Castle Gate coal preparation plant and train loading facility remained idle after 1989, and until production from the Willow Creek mine began in 1998.
Known as "Adit No. 1," the original Utah Fuel No. 1 mine was used as a transportation tunnel for a 48-inch conveyor belt that exited the tunnel at the site of the the No. 1 mine, which had a cut-stone portal and a keystone date of 1888. The conveyor belt was part of a system of conveyor belts and transfer stations that moved the mined coal from the tunnel, under U. S. Highway 50 and 6, over and across the Price River and the tracks of the D&RGW railroad, to the what was known as the Castle Gate Coal Preparation Plant. The portal was sealed in 1991, but the exterior conveyor belt system remained in place. The conveyor belt system and its supporting structures were demolished in the fall of 2002 as part of the overall reclamation of the entire Castle Gate and Willow Creek mine sites.
A jury trial in July 2000 found against the coal companies (Amax Coal) after the United Mines Workers had filed suit for breach of contract. In January 2002 the court entered its judgment order in the amount of nearly $1.5 million, representing the lost wages and benefits the members would have earned in the approximately four-and-a-half years they were not working from the time the plant was re-opened (in 1986) until it finally closed in several weeks after the trial in 2000. In October 2002, the companies appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit. After a period of briefings and oral arguments, the Appellate Court upheld the breach of contract award against Amax on December 30, 2004. Even though Amax declared bankruptcy, RAG American Coal company took responsibility for the litigation when it acquired Cyprus Amax Coal Company. (Sun Advocate, February 15, 2005)
(Read more about Cyprus Amax, Cyprus Plateau, and the later RAG American Coal Company, including the corporate succession to today's Alpha American Coal Company, LLC.)
New Willow Creek Mine
(1995 to 2000) (Cyprus Plateau)
Historically, the original mines in Willow Creek canyon were the Utah Fuel (later Castle Gate) mine no. 2 and Utah Fuel (later Castle Gate) mine no. 4. These two mines produced coal that was transported by a tramway (which included two short tunnels) to the Castle Gate coal preparation plant adjacent to the D&RGW mainline. Also in the Castle Gate area was Utah Fuel (later Castle Gate) mine no. 1, located on the west side of the railroad mainline, south and west of the Castle Gate coal preparation plant. Castle Gate No. 3 was opened in 1922 and was located about 3/4 mile north and west of the coal preparation plant, and was the first vertical shaft coal mine in Utah. Castle Gate No. 3 was closed in 1937 due to flooding from the Price River.
Cyprus Amax Minerals company was the result of the 1993 merger of Cyprus Minerals and Amax Coal.
Cyprus Minerals owned the Plateau (former Wattis) Star Point mine. Amax Coal owned the Castle Gate (former Price River Coal) mine, closed since 1991.
Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation was a subsidiary of Cyprus Minerals Company, and later Cyprus Amax Minerals Company after the 1993 merger of Cyprus Minerals and Amax Coal.
(Read more about Cyprus Amax, Cyprus Plateau, and the later RAG American Coal Company -- including the corporate succession to today's Alpha American Coal Company, LLC.)
In 1995, the newly-formed company Cyprus Amax began development of a new mine in Willow Creek Canyon, to replace the production of its Star Point mine near Wattis. The Star Point mine was reaching the end of its production life, but Cyprus Amax had coal contracts that it still needed to keep active.
Willow Creek and Cyprus Amax
"Construction of the Willow Creek mine located near Price, Utah was approved during the fourth quarter of 1995. Site preparation has commenced and facilities construction will proceed over the next eighteen months. Longwall start-up is projected for mid-1998. Willow Creek's production will be marketed to Pacific Rim customers through West Coast ports. A portion of the production is also expected to be sold to Western and Midwestern utility customers." Cyprus Amax expected to spend $44 million in Utah primarily for the development of the Willow Creek mine. (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1996)
The coal preparation plant of Cyprus Plateau's Willow Creek mine is described in the 1995 description of projected reclamation costs, as part of the reclamation bond prior to opening the mine. (Documents on file at Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
The preparation plant has been constructed on the site of the former town of Castle Gate. The area is covered to a large extent with fill resulting from the regrading of the townsite. The Willow Creek area has been historically associated with coal mining operations. Most of the miners and their families that worked in the Utah Fuel No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and No.4 Mines lived in the old town of Castle Gate. Two mines and a coal preparation plant were located on or near the area of the current preparation plant. The Ketchum Mine, located in the draw to the northeast of the preparation plant entrance, was operated from near the turn of the century to the early 1930s. The Utah Fuel No.3 Mine, accessing the D Seam, was located just north of the raw-water pond. It opened in the early 1920s and then closed in 1937, due to flooding from the Price River. The old Utah Fuel Coal Plant, situated at the mouth of School House Canyon, began processing coal in 1938. That plant was closed in 1972 by its owner North American Coal Company. In 1974, the old plant was demolished by McCulloch Oil Company.
"Plateau Mining's construction of the Willow Creek mine commenced during the fourth quarter of 1995. Facilities construction, including refurbishment of the preparation plant, was completed in 1997. Longwall start-up is expected in the second quarter of 1998, and total capital expenditures was higher than expected due to geologic conditions that have increased the cost of underground development and reduced the saleable pre-production coal available as a credit to development costs. The planned life of the Willow Creek mine is at least 20 years. Willow Creek owns its production equipment and leases and subleases its coal reserves, mainly from the federal government." (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1998)
"Development of mains, gates and bleeders in the new Willow Creek mine property in Book Cliffs (which started cutting coal in September 1996) is preparing for a first long-wall startup in late 1997. Extensive surface work has also been completed, including new overland conveyors, a refurbished preparation plant, new bath house, shop, and warehouse and a new railroad spur to service the planned 5 million-ton-a-year production schedule." Shipments started prior to August 1997. (Utah 1996 Coal Report??)
Underground development started in September 1996. "The development of the Willow Creek mine in Utah is progressing on schedule and within budget. Approximately $50 million of the $130 million project was spent through 1996, and completion is expected in early 1998. It is anticipated that annual production will be approximately 5 million tons." (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1997)
Most of the initial mine development work for the new Willow Creek mine began in 1997 using continuous miners and electric shuttle cars. High productivity longwall mining systems for coal production began in 1998. Coal was hauled from the mine using a high speed main conveyor system fed by several face conveyors located at each of the active development areas, both continuous miner sections and longwall panels. A fire in November 1998 in the D Seam stopped production for about a year. An integrated program of geotechnical monitoring and a gob vent borehole network of surface holes was used to monitor ground conditions and remove methane gas in advance of mining. Another fire in July 2000 idled the mine. The mine was permanently closed in September 2002. Post-mining land use to industrial purposes was approved for the prep plant and mine buildings in 2004. Final reclamation was completed in April 2006. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Permit C0070038)
"The Utah operating unit, which is incorporated as Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation, consists of the Willow Creek and Star Point underground mines both located near Price, Utah. Star Point completed longwall mining in the third quarter of 1997 and continues to operate at a reduced production level using continuous miners." (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1998)
"On September 30, 1997, Cyprus Amax sold a 15 percent interest in its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation, to Mitsubishi Corporation for cash proceeds of $29 million. Cyprus Plateau operates the new Willow Creek and the existing Star Point mines in Utah. The Willow Creek mine will replace the existing Star Point mine, which is phasing out its mine life." (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1998)
"Longwall start-up at the newly constructed Willow Creek mine commenced in mid-July 1998, with commercial production achieved on October 1, 1998.
November 25, 1998
An underground mine fire occurred at Willow Creek. There were no injuries, and all employees were safely evacuated and the mine was sealed in a remarkably short period of time. There was minimal damage to the mine and longwall, and continuous miner production is projected to restart in late March 1999. The majority of the Willow Creek workforce has been temporarily assigned to the nearby Star Point mine where production has been expanded to partially mitigate the absence of production from Willow Creek. The losses that have and are being incurred are expected to be partially offset by insurance recoveries expected to be realized in 1999 and 2000. (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1999)
Willow Creek and RAG American
June 30, 1999
RAG American bought Cyprus Amax. At that time its parent company RAG International became the second largest coal producer in the world. (RAG.de web site)
August 1, 2000
A fire and explosion at the Willow Creek coal mine killed two miners. The mine remained closed since that incident. In Willow Creek, pockets of methane -- a combustible gas often found in coal mines -- are unusually common. Crude oil also drips from the ceiling, vaporizing into a flammable cloud. Sparks from heavy machinery and rocks collapsing can ignite either one. The fire and explosion took place about 2,000 feet underground and two miles from the mine's portal. the two miners, Gordon Nielsen and Micah Stansfield, were two of 10 miners working in the D-3 section of the longwall mine. Longwall mining in the D-3 section had only started July 16. Under current ownership, the Willow Creek Mine has been operating since July 1998. Operated by Cyprus Plateau Mining Corp., a subsidiary of RAG American Coal, Willow Creek produced about 5 million tons of coal annually, much of which went to the Intermountain Power Project near Delta. The future of the mine remains uncertain. (Deseret News, August 2, 2000; April 10, 2001)
September 27, 2000
Utah Railway operated the last coal train to be loaded from the Willow Creek mine at Castle Gate. The mine was closed following the fire and explosion on July 31, 2000 where two workers were killed. (CTC Board Railroads Illustrated, January 2001, page 15)
December 11, 2000
Plateau Mining notified the state that mining at the Willow Creek mine was ceased for an indefinite period due to the underground explosion and fire on July 31, 2000. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
December 10, 2001
RAG American purchased Mitsubishi Corporation's 15 percent interest in the Willow Creek mine. Earlier in 2001 there was a $83 million insurance settlement for property damage and business interruption. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
Due to the "temporary" cessation of mining, Plateau Mining began reclamation activities at the Willow Creek mine, with the first actions being the removal of the conveyor system between the mine in Willow Creek canyon, and the coal preparation plant at Castle Gate. The conveyor system through the long and short tunnels was completed by mid December 2002. These two tunnels had previously been used by the tramway of the previous Castle Gate mine No. 2 (opened in 1912; closed in 1960). The conveyor systems were sold to Savage Industries. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
At the same time, work began on the demolition of the conveyor system from the Hardscrabble and Sow Belly mines, known as Adit #1, which passed under Highway 6 and 50 at Castle Gate, and passed over the UP railroad tracks and Price River, before connection with the coal preparation plant at Castle Gate. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
Plateau Mining completed the demolition of the crusher building at Castle Gate. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
Plateau Mining completed the demolition of the preparation plant at Castle Gate, and reclamation of the 46-acre site was completed during the following three months. The rail car loading facility was to be dismantled and moved to another location. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
At the time of a photo taken on July 24, 2004, the unit train loadout at Castle Gate was still in place and not yet dismantled. (Trainorders.com, August 16, 2004)
The Plateau Mining rail car loading facility at Castle Gate remained in place until September 2005, when it was dismantled and moved to a mine in Pennsylvania. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)
Castle Gate Town Site
The town of Castle Gate was dismantled in 1974, and the remaining 200 residents relocated to sixty new homes in a new Castle Gate subdivision, located at the mouth of Spring Canyon. The new community was annexed to Helper. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, p. 4)
The Town of Castle Gate, Utah, was disincorporated in June 1974. (Greeley Daily Tribune, August 12, 1974, citing Associated Press)
July to December 1974
The move of 61 houses from Castle Gate to the new Castle Gate Annex of Helper, began in July 1974, and was completed in mid December 1974, although the new streets were not yet paved and there was not yet telephone service. (Greeley Daily Tribune, December 23, 1974, citing Associated Press; "five months ago" and "last week")
"When McCulloch Oil Corporation, through its subsidiary Braztah Company, purchased all the Castle Gate, Utah property from the Valley Camp Coal Company in 1973, an incorporated company town built in 1888 was included. While the land on in the which the town was built became the property of McCulloch Oil and the place where a coal preparation plant and unit train loading facility were to go, the houses had been sold to the miners years before. The company then notified the homeowners of their land lease clause whereby the land upon which their homes stood was leased to them by the mining company subject to a 120-day notice to vacate. Two reasonable options were offered the homeowners by the company: 1) acceptance of a purchase price above market value, whereupon if accepted the house was demolished or 2) the moving of the house at company expense. Approximately 95 percent of the homeowners (72 houses) opted for the movement of their house to a lot, gratis of McCulloch, with a,basement in a new subdivision on the outskirts of Helper, Utah, 5 miles away. So in 1974, following the relocation of the 72 houses (destruction of 15 houses), the town site lost its incorporated status and the old company town "City of Castle Gate" became a part of a subdivision surrounded by modular homes. (29)" (William C. Metz, Socioeconomic Impact Management In The Western Energy Industry; Brookhaven National Laboratory, Policy Analysis Division, National Center for Analysis of Energy Systems, Upton, New York; January 1979; Research carried out under the auspices of the United States Department of Energy; citing: 29. Communication with Garth Condie, American Electric Power System, Helper, Utah, July 26, 1977 and William Corbitt, American Electric Power Service Corporation,·New York, New York, September 21, 1977.)
(See also: Industry Initiatives In Impact Mitigation, William C. Metz, August 1982; Prepared for the proceedings of the Alaska Symposium on Social, Economic, and Cultural Impacts of Natural Resource Development Anchorage, Alaska, August 25-27, 1982; National Center For Analysis Of Energy Systems Department Of Energy And Environment Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York; page 16)
Sixty of the 72 homeowners took the option to have their houses moved to Helper. The remaining homeowners chose to sell their houses and move in with family members in Helper, Price, or other locations. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 25, 1974)
(Chuck Zehnder, in his " A Guide To Carbon County Coal Camps And Ghost Towns," on pages 12 and 13, includes information about the move of the houses at Castle Gate, but his dates are not correct.)
The Castle Gate
How high and wide is the Castle Gate rock formation?
The USGS maps don't say, but looking at the elevation lines, it appears to be about 6,700 feet elevation, with the highway being 6273 feet. So, maybe about 500 feet higher than the tracks.
Deseret News, June 11, 1883, says 400 feet high.
Salt Lake Herald, July 8, 1883 says 500 feet high.
Deseret News, May 26, 1888, says 500 feet high
Castle Gate Highway Tunnel -- Information about the highway and tunnel that passed the Castle Gate rock formation, including a timeline for the demolition of the west portion in 1964-1966.
Amax, Cyprus Amax and RAG American Coal -- Information about the Amax, Cyprus Amax and RAG American Coal ownership of the Wattis and Willow Creek coal mines.