Wattis Mine (later Star Point Mine)
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This page was last updated on January 1, 2017.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
Mining operations began in 1916 when the Wattis Brothers and Mr. Browning bought 160 acres from the United States and developed the property for coal production.
Coal shipments from the Wattis mine began in April 1918, by way of a new rail line built by Utah Railway. The Lion Coal Company bought the coal interest in 1919. The mine remained in operation until 1964. The mine had been mined out by the then-current room-and-pillar method and was sold for its salvage value to Mountain States Machinery of Salt Lake City. Mountain States soon discovered that the mine contained significant coal reserves and organized the Plateau Mining Company, which began mining operations in 1967, shipping by way of Utah Railway's Wattis Branch. The original Wattis mine became Star Point Number 1. Later production was from Star Point Number 2.
Plateau Mining installed a longwall mining machine in the Star Point Number 2 mine in early 1983. A contract was signed to furnish 200,000 tons per year beginning in 1987 to the Intermountain Power Project at Delta, Utah. To load the coal for IPP, Plateau built a conveyor 7,500 feet long to move coal from its Star Point mine (formerly the Wattis mine), from the mine to a new flood loader for unit coal trains located on Utah Railway's nearby mainline, completely bypassing the Wattis Branch. Production continued through late 1997 when longwall mining ceased and the mine was closed. Coal production moved to Plateau's new Willow Creek mine near Castle Gate. Also in 1997, the Wattis/Star Point conveyor and flood loader were removed.
In 1971, United Nuclear purchased the mine and in July 1980 it was transferred to Plateau Mining Corporation. Ownership changed from Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation to RAG American in 1999. Foundation Coal bought R.A.G. in 2004.
Historically, the Star Point Number 2 Mine developed coal resources in the Hiawatha seam, the Third seam, and the Wattis seam by the room and pillar, and longwall mining methods with an annual production of 1 to 3 million tons. Reclamation of remote portals and sealing of the mine was completed in 2000. Reclamation of the main facilities area started in 2001 and was completed in 2003. Star Point Mine received a Phase I bond release in 2004. (Utah Division of Natural Resources, Utah Coal Program)
Utah Railway and Wattis
Mining operations at the Wattis mine "began in 1916, when Wattis Brothers and Mr. Browning bought 160 acres from the United States and took steps to open the property for production. Coal was not shipped until autumn 1917, at which time the railroad was completed. The camp was named for W. H. Wattis, who sold the Wattis interests to the Lion Coal Company in 1919." (Madsen, p. 56)
On May 31, 1917 the Wattis Coal Company was organized, with E. O. Wattis of Ogden as president, and M. S. Browning, also of Ogden, as vice president, both holding each a quarter of the company's stock. (Utah corporation, index number 12741)
"WATTIS BRANCH (Industrial Spur). In 1917 the Wattis Coal Company (Name later changed to Lion Coal Corporation), in developing a mine at a point which was given the present name of Wattis, built a 2.5 miles spur track between Wattis and a point to connect with Utah Railway near Mile Post 18, later named Wattis Junction. Shipments commenced April 11, 1918. This trackage was maintained by the owner and service rendered by the Utah Railway Company at cost. The spur track was purchased by Utah Railway Company under agreement dated November 1, 1921. The cost of the Wattis industrial spur was $170,954.00." (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)
During late November 1917, Wattis Coal Company was constructing two miles of standard gauge railroad. Upon completion the tipple at the mine was to be built. The company expected to be shipping coal in March 1918. (Salt Lake Mining Review, November 30, 1917, p. 35, "Coal Notes & Personals")
The two mile spur from Utah Railway to the Wattis mine was to be completed about April 10. (Salt Lake Mining Review, March 30, 1918, p. 33, "Coal Notes & Personals")
Wattis Coal Company made the first trip over its surface tramway on March 18, 1918. Initial mine production was projected at 200 tons per day. (Salt Lake Mining Review, March 30, 1918, p. 33, "Coal Notes & Personals")
The Wattis mine shipped its first coal on April 11, 1918. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)
On April 1, 1919, Utah Railway began taking shipments from the Wattis mine in the name of the Lion Coal Company, which had succeeded the Wattis Coal Company. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)
On May 29, 1919, Lion Coal Company bought the property and interests of the Wattis Coal Company. (Utah corporation, index number 12741, Wattis Coal Company)
The Lion Coal Company was "founded" by David Eccles shortly before his death in 1912, and began operations four miles outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming. A railroad spur was constructed between the mine and Union Pacific Railroad, and completed in late 1912. In 1919 the Eccles-owned Lion Coal Company, valued at $2 million, merged with the Wattis Coal Company, valued at $1.5 million under the name of the Lion Coal Company. (Arrington: Eccles, p. 268)
The Lion Coal Company was incorporated in Utah on October 7, 1912. The corporation was "revoked" on September 29, 1934. (Utah corporation, index number 9782)
The railroad spur of the Lion Coal Company at Wattis was sold to Utah Railway on November 1, 1921. The 2.45 mile spur began at Utah Railway's mile post 18 and extended to its end 460 feet west of the coal company's coal tipple. The purchase price included a $20,000.00 cash down payment and a repayment schedule that consisted of free transportation of coal at a cost of fifteen cents per ton until the purchase price of $170,954.00 was paid off (about 1,006,000 tons of coal, or about 25,170 forty-ton car loads). With the coal company guaranteeing at least 100,000 tons of coal per year, the pay off would take about ten years. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 3-G, p. 393)
United States Fuel Company sued Lion Coal Company for encroachment. United States Fuel won the case, Lion Coal paid $173,004.00. (Coal Index: The Sun, April 30, 1926, p. 1)
Lion Coal Company was succeeded by the Lion Coal Corporation on January 1, 1931. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)
Lion Coal Company replaced the original wooden loadout tipple at Wattis, with a new steel loadout in 1952.
Lion Coal Corporation operated the Wattis mine until 1964. In late 1964 the mine was purchased for its salvage value by Mountain States Machinery of Salt Lake City. When the salvage company realized that only about ten percent of the total coal reserves had been mined, it renamed the Lion Coal Corporation to the Plateau Mining Company and extraction work began. In 1967 the Wattis property, consisting of the Wattis vein (8.3 feet average thickness), the Third vein (8.8 feet), and the Hiawatha vein (5.9 feet) was sold to Plateau Mining Company (by that time owned by Star Point Holding Company), and the mine was returned to production. The Plateau company was acquired by United Nuclear Corporations on October 1, 1971. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, p. 3)
(The Star Point name comes from the geologic sandstone formation that underlies the Wattis coal seam by about 90 to 120 feet. Most of the mineable coal in this area of Utah lies between Castlegate Sandstone and Star Point Sandstone formations.)
November 3, 1971
Plateau Mining Company was sold to United Nuclear Corporation of Elmsford, New York, for a reported $5 million. Mine production was reported to be 3,000 tons per day. Plateau Mining was a partnership that included Starpoint Mining, Ltd. (40 percent), whose principle owner was Wayne Baker who had started the Plateau company in 1967. Other partners included Sundance Oil Co. of Denver (33 percent) and television personality Art Linkletter (20 percent). (Salt Lake Tribune, November 3, 1971)
Plateau had increased production to 1.5 million tons per year, using both continuous and traditional room-and-pillar mining methods. Coal was transported by truck for one mile, from the mine to the preparation plant, and by conveyor from the preparation plant to the Wattis unit train load-out on the Utah Railway. (Coal Age, Volume 83, number 3, March 1978, pp. 112-117)
From about May 1978 through at least late July 1979, a unit coal train was operated between the Wattis coal mine, and the Union Electric coal-fired power plant at Labadie, Missouri. The train ran from Wattis westward to Provo, Utah, by way of Utah Railway, then by Union Pacific from Provo to Kansas City, where it was interchanged with CRI&P (Rock Island). The train operated using 100 bright blue ROCK hopper cars, on a schedule of once every 10 or more days as a loaded train, and similarly as an empty. (Dennis Opferman, email dated July 30, 2014)
Plateau Mining Company's parent company, UNC Industries, announced that they were interested in leaving the coal business. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 18, 1980)
Plateau Mining Company was purchased by Getty Mineral Resources Company, a subsidiary of Getty Oil Company. Plateau had shipped 200,000 tons of coal to Japan for use by steel and cement companies, and in 1981 had a contract to ship 100,000 tons to a Japanese utility for testing. (Mining Congress Journal, January 1981, Volume 67, Number 1, page 9)
The Plateau mine (as the Plateau Mining Corporation) was shipping export coal for Japan from the Wattis mine. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 8, 1980)
The Plateau Mining Company was reorganized as the Plateau Mining Corporation in July 1980.
Getty Mineral Resources' Plateau mine was reported as having already installed a 1.33-mile, 48-inch wide conveyor system from within its underground mine, out to a new crushing plant. Photos show the crushing plant as being immediately south and adjacent to the old preparation plant of the Lion Coal Company at Wattis. (Coal Age, April 1982, Volume 87, Number 4, page 64)
The coal was apparently still being loaded at Wattis. The flood loader was not yet in place.
Getty Mineral Resources signed a contract with IPA to furnish 14 million tons over a 20 year period from both the Plateau mine, fully owned by Getty, and the Skyline mine, jointly owned by Getty and Coastal States Energy. IPA's power plant near Delta was scheduled to begin producing electricity in 1986. (Coal Age, May 1983, Volume 88, Number 5, page 17)
Plateau Mining Company came under the corporate ownership of Texaco Corporation in February 1984 when Plateau's parent company, Getty Oil Company (and its subsidiary of Getty Minerals Resources Company, owner of Plateau) was sold to Texaco, at a reported cost of $10.1 billion. The Texaco-Getty merger was said to be the second largest merger in U. S. history. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 29, 1985)
Plateau's Star Point mine was one of several coal mines in the immediate area that began furnishing coal to Utah Power & Light's Huntington and Hunter power plants upon the closure of UP&L's own Wilberg mine on December 19, 1984. A total of 27 miners were killed in the Wilberg mine fire. The sudden increase in coal truck traffic in the area was the cause of extensive damage to several local highways, including the road between Wattis and UP&L's two power plants. (Deseret News, April 6, 1985) The Wattis road was completely rebuilt, including several major realignments. (Deseret News, May 4, 1985)
When Intermountain Power Agency began construction of their Intermountain Power Project coal-fired electrical generation plant near Delta, Utah, they also began arranging for a steady supply of coal that could be used by the plant, about 12,000 tons per day. Several contracts were signed with coal mining companies to ensure a continuing supply of coal, which was to be transported by unit coal trains from points on D&RGW and Utah Railway, over Soldier Summit to Provo, then south by Union Pacific to the IPP plant near Delta. (Read more about IPP)
Three large coal loadouts were constructed to serve these IPP unit coal trains. First was the already existing C. V. Spur, south of Price. The second was a new flood loader on Utah Railway for the Star Point mine (formerly the Wattis mine), which went into service in January 1986. The third site was a new flood loader at Wildcat, also on Utah Railway. (Read more about C. V. Spur) (Read more about Wildcat)
Construction started on a new flood loader for the Star Point mine. The new loader was located on Utah Railway's mainline, and would allow the Wattis Branch to be abandoned. (Crossroads of the West, page 129)
August 30, 1985
Plateau Mining Company was sold to Cyprus Minerals Company of Englewood, Colorado. Cyprus had become an independent company after being spun off from Amoco Corporation on July 1, 1985. Cyprus Minerals purchased the coal mining operations of Getty Minerals Company from Texaco. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 29, 1985)
To increase its capability of loading unit trains, Plateau Mining constructed a conveyor between its mine and a siding on Utah Railway that did away with the need for the Wattis Branch. The new conveyor (reported as being 7500 feet long) and flood loader began operations in 1986, loading unit coal trains on Utah Railway by use of a new siding 13,000 feet long adjacent to the road's mainline. The flood loader included an 11,000 ton-capacity silo that could load trains at the rate of 6,000 tons per hour, allowing an 84-car train to be loaded in 90 minutes. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 29, 1985; Coal Age October 1986, Volume 91, Number 10, page 44)
During 1985, Plateau produced 1.4 million tons of coal, all from the Star Point Number 2 mine, with 435,000 tons of that total being exported to utility companies and cement companies in Japan and Taiwan. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 29, 1985)
The new flood loader was constructed to allow Plateau to fulfill its newly-signed contract with Intermountain Power Agency to furnish 200,000 tons per year to IPA's Intermountain Power Project at Delta, Utah. The conveyor and flood loader were to become operational in January 1986, with full production to begin in August 1986. The IPA contract called for an increase in 1989 from 200,000 tons to 360,000 to 440,000 tons per year. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 29, 1985)
Construction on the Intermountain Power Project began in September 1981. IPP began its coal reserve stockpile in June 1985 when the first unit coal train dumped its coal at the new facility. Commercial operation of unit 1 started in June 1986, and IPP's second unit went on line on June 13, 1987. (Read more about IPP)
The new contract between Cyprus and Intermountain Power Agency, at 17 million tons delivered over 22 years, superceded the previous contract between IPA and Getty, at 14 million tons delivered over 20 years. (Coal Age, November 1986, Volume 91, Number 11, page 31)
By 1995, coal reserves accessible by longwall techniques at the Star Point mine rapidly diminished due to increased faulting and non-coal intrusions in the three coal seams being worked. Longwall mining ceased in the Star Point Mine in September 1997. Production was by continuous mining after that time, which continued after the November 1998 fire at Cyprus Plateau's new Willow Creek mine.
In 1999, Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation was sold to RAG American. In 2004 RAG American was purchased by Foundation Coal.
(Read more about RAG American Coal Company, including the corporate succession to today's Alpha American Coal Company, LLC)
Reclamation efforts for the entire Star Point and Wattis mine site started in February 2000. Reclamation was completed in 2003. After a ten year period of monitoring, the mine was declared fully reclaimed on July 29, 2013. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Permit C0070006, Star Point Mine)