Bear Canyon Coal Mine

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This page was last updated on January 15, 2024.

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The Bear Canyon mine is located about six miles further up Huntington Canyon, northwest of the Huntington power station. It was originally operated by the Co-op Mining company. Coal from the mine, from its earliest days, was always shipped by the use of trucks of varying size and capacity. The current operator of the Bear Canyon mine, as of 2021, is Gentry Mountain Mining Co.

The Bear Canyon mine in a branch of Huntington Canyon, west of Huntington, mined its coal from the Bear Canyon coal seam, about 50 feet above the Blind Canyon seam. The (lower) Blind Canyon coal seam was mined by the Beehive and Little Dove mines as part of the Des-Bee-Dove complex.

The original Co-Op mine opening and portal was lower and a short distance farther west from the mouth of Bear Canyon. All of the later development has been in Bear Canyon itself, at its upper end, where all of the later openings and portals have been. But all openings take their coal from the same Bear Canyon coal seam.

The following comes from documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining:

The Bear Canyon Mine is an active coal mine operation. Production from the Bear Canyon Mines produced 653,000 tons in 2007. The majority of Bear Canyon's 2006 and all of its 2007 production came from the Tank seam located in the Bear Canyon #4 Mine. Longwall production of the Tank seam forecasted for 2008 was reported at 2.0 million short tons 1. The Tank seam in Bear Canyon #4 mine averages 7 to 8 feet thick with a maximum depth of 1400 feet.

Mining at the Bear Canyon Mine began between 1896 and 1906. Co-Op Mining Company acquired the Bear Canyon area coal leases from Peabody Coal Company in 1975 and re-entered the old Bear Canyon Mine workings in 1982. The current permit area encompasses 3,300 acres and the mining method used is room and pillar. The Blind Canyon and Hiawatha seams are currently being mined. The permittee is currently reclaiming the #1 and #2 Mines and opened the #3 Mine in the Wild Horse Ridge area recently.

An application to add over 7,000 acres of fee and federal coal was conditionally approved on April 5, 2007.

The Bear Canyon permit was transferred to Castle Valley Mining, LLC. on December 16, 2010. 

"Bear Canyon Mines -- These mines are situated 13 miles north of the town of Huntington, on Huntington Creek, also three miles further up the creek is the Trail Canyon Mine. There are two veins on these properties, one 8 feet and one 11, all clean coal, owned and operated by Don Robinson of Huntington , Emery County." (Report of Utah Coal Mine Inspector, 1901-1902)

Co-op Mining Company

"The Co-op Mining Company was organized in 1939 by C. E. Kingston and associates, who leased part of the large Freed property in Trail Canyon. The necessary access road, chutes, and loading bins were built by tedious hand labor, and the coal cars and rails were salvaged from the Freed mine. In order to prevent the more valuable lump coal from being pulverized in the chute, Kingston devised a counter-weighted cable car, built entirely from scrap material, to lower the coal. To replace the slow hand drill, Eskel Peterson made an electric drill from a Dodge starter motor, operated from batteries. Average production in the early years was twenty tons per day, selling at $1.35 per ton. The miners were paid fifty cents a ton for loading the coal. In 1947 Utah Power and Light extended its lines into Huntington Canyon. With electric-powered cutting and loading equipment, production increased to 150 tons per day, with lump coal selling for about $2.85 per ton and oiled slack bringing $2.35." (A History of Emery County, Utah State Historical Society; taken from Gerald Hansen, "A Short History of Co-op Mine" (November 1993), typescript copy in Emery County History Archives.)

This original Co-op mine was in Trail Canyon, approximately one mile west-northwest of the Bear Canyon mine.

The following details come from documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining:

The mine is an old existing mine that was reclaimed, and the existing portal was closed. Three new portals were completed: one for an exhaust fan; one for a conveyor belt; and one for an intake fan.

There are three seams in the Bear Canyon property, the Upper Bear, the Bear or Blind canyon seam (middle), and the Hiawatha (lower). The old existing mine is in the middle seam. The projected plan was to begin mining in the existing mine, but only in the development stage of mining. Retreat mining will not take place in this seam until after the upper seam has been mined. Mining was to be by continuous miner, with 60 percent recovery anticipated. Initial annual production was planed as 200,000 tons, increased to 400,000 tons.

Co-op Mining Company controlled 1,115 acres in Emery County, Utah (900 acres in Bear Canyon , 215 acres in Trail Canyon). Mining has been conducted on this site from 1938 and as of October 1983, there remained 20 million tons of new, mineable coal reserves within the permit area.

The coal being extracted from the Bear Canyon mine was formally owned by C.O.P. Coal Development Corp., and the mine was leased for operation to Co-Op-Mining Co. The two companies shared officers and shareholders.

C. W. Mining

June 10, 1983
C. W. Mining was registered as a corporation operating in the State of Utah.

November 1, 1985
C. W. Mining received its original approval for the transfer of the mining permit for the Bear Canyon coal mine.

C. W. Mining was operator of the Bear Canyon mine as of June 1989 during an MSHA safety inspection of the mine.

On May 1, 1990, C.W. Mining received approval from the federal BLM to operate the Bear Canyon coal mine. The Bear Canyon operating approval was renewed in August 1997, September 1999, and April 2001, and again in June 2010. The approved Bear Canyon coal mine includes federal coal leases and fee land owned by C.O.P. Coal Development Corp. and ANR, Inc. C.W. Mining and ANR entered into a coal operating agreement in March 1997 for C.W. Mining to operate in the portion of ANR holdings in Bear Canyon.

(The ANR company dates from 1997, when U. S. Fuel sold the patented land and coal leases to Hiawatha Mines Complex to ANR Company, Inc. (the former Arava Natural Resources). On June 20, 1997, and on June 30, 1997 ANR sold the same properties, permits and leases to Hiawatha Coal Co., which had registered to do business in Utah on the same day. The official transfer from U. S. Fuel to ANR, then to Hiawatha Coal took place on August 18, 1997. By November 2008, the offices of the Hiawatha Coal company were co-located with those of ANR at the Bear Canyon mine.)

(This ANR company in Utah should not be confused with a much larger ANR [Alpha Natural Resources] company operating in West Virginia, a result of a 2009 merger that included Alpha Natural Resources and several other Appalachian coal companies. Alpha Natural Resources had been created in 2002 as a merger of several coal mining companies, including Coastal Coal in 2003 and Foundation Coal in 2009, both of which had inactive coal properties in Utah.)

C.O.P. Coal Development Corp. and C.W. Mining share various common directors, officers, shareholders. Two other companies, ANR Company, Inc., and Hiawatha Coal Co., also share the same directors, officers, shareholders. The same persons are also officers and shareholders of the Davis County Cooperative, a non-profit entity.

C. W. Mining is not mentioned in the November 1995 permit renewal by the Co-op Mining for the Bear canyon mine.

During late 1994, Utah Railway was working on a proposal to extend its rail line from Mohrland, to a site closer to the Bear Canyon mine. This was to make up for traffic lost due to the closure in 1992-1993 of U. S. Fuel's Hiawatha mines. (telephone interviews on October 31, 1994 with John West, general manager of Utah Railway, and Mike Watson, general manager of Arava Natural Resources.)

For a brief period in 1996 and 1997, coal from Co-Op Mining's Bear Canyon mine was trucked to Mohrland and loaded into rail cars for shipment out-of-state as part of a special contract.

The Bear Canyon mine (Bear Canyon #1) suffered several roof collapses during the fall of 2003, resulting in the mine's permanent closure following an order by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration in January 2004. The adjacent Blind Canyon mine was opened to fill Co-Op's coal contracts. In June 2008, following its filing for bankruptcy in January 2008, C. W. Mining company sold its assets in the Bear Canyon mine to Hiawatha Coal Company. Over the next year, until June 2009, Hiawatha mined more than one million tons of coal from the mine and sold the coal to various entities, including Commonwealth Coal Services, Inc., the Intermountain Power Agency, Nevada Power Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, for an estimated $63 million. Then in November 2009 the bankruptcy court sold the coal mining assets to other companies.)

"Coal production at the privately owned Bear Canyon mines peaked in 2001 at 1.3 million short tons before declining to just 339,000 short tons in 2004, primarily due to labor problems. Production is expected to increase slightly in 2005 to 394,000 short tons, with a more substantial increase, to 800,000 short tons, in 2006. Reserves are estimated at more than 23 million short tons, all to be mined using continuous mining equipment. The west side of Bear Canyon (Bear Canyon #1) has been mined-out, and operations have moved to the east side, producing out of the Blind Canyon (Bear Canyon #3) and Tank (Bear Canyon #4) seams. Resolution of labor issues will be required before full production at Bear Canyon can resume." (2004 Utah Coal Report)

"Coal production at the privately owned Bear Canyon mines peaked in 2001 at 1.3 million short tons before declining to just 339,000 short tons in 2004, primarily due to labor problems. Production increased in 2005 to 456,000 short tons, with a more substantial increase, to 800,000 short tons, expected in 2006. Reserves are estimated at more than 23 million short tons, all currently planned to be mined using continuous mining equipment. The west side of Bear Canyon property (Bear Canyon #1) has been mined-out, and operations have moved to the east side, where production comes from the Blind Canyon (Bear Canyon #3) and Tank (Bear Canyon #4) seams, both of which range from 6 to 10 feet thick." (2005 Utah Coal Report)

(The expansion into the Blind Canyon and Tank seams was known as the Wild Horse Ridge Addition.)

October 30, 2007
C. W. Mining was ordered by a federal judge to pay almost $25 million to Aquila, Inc., a utility service provider, for a breach of contract to supply coal. Aquila had asked for the full $54 million but the judge reduced the settlement.

"Hiawatha Coal Company (formally C.W. Mining) commenced longwall mining within the Tank bed in November of 2007. Production totaled 868,000 tons in 2008 as difficult mining conditions hampered longwall operation. The mine produced 633,000 tons of coal in 2009 before it was forced to close due to financial and legal problems. Several million tons of reserves are still available in the Tank, Blind Canyon, and Hiawatha beds in this area." (2008 Utah Coal Report)

January 8, 2008
C. W. Mining was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in January 2008, after being sued for breach of a coal delivery contract with a Kansas City utility company that operated two coal-fired power plants in Missouri. The utility company won a $24.8 million settlement for the undelivered coal.

June 24, 2008
The property and assets of C. W. Mining (doing business as Co-op-Mining) were sold to Hiawatha Coal Co. (The "sale" was actually a transfer from one company to another, both controlled by the same persons.) An application was made soon after to transfer the permit to operate a coal mine in Bear Canyon from C.O.P. Coal Development to Hiawatha Coal Co., but the permit transfer was voided by the bankruptcy trustee. Hiawatha Coal continued to fight the sale of the mine assets through 2008 and 2009, and into 2010, until the final bankruptcy sale to Rhino Energy was approved by the bankruptcy court on July 14, 2010.

October 29, 2009
"The Bear Canyon mine is not producing coal. Co-op Mining is continuing with legal negotiations to sell the mine to Hiawatha Coal Company and hopes the sale will go through within one or two months. New longwall shields have been purchased and are stored on-site." (BLM Field Inspection report dated October 29, 2009)

Rhino Energy/Castle Valley Mining

Rhino Resource Partners LP was the reorganized Rhino Energy LLC, following Rhino Resource's successful initial public offering on October 5, 2010. On August 25, 2010 Rhino Energy had purchased, for a reported $25.5 million, the assets of the bankrupt C. W. Mining, including the coal mine in Bear Canyon. Production at the Bear Canyon mine resumed in December 2010. (Rhino Resource Partners press release dated November 4, 2010)

The Bear Canyon mine was operated by Castle Valley Mining LLC, a subsidiary of Rhino Energy.

"Rhino Energy purchased the Bear Canyon mines from C.W. Mining (Co-Op Mining) in 2010, renaming the mines Castle Valley. No coal was produced from the property in 2010, but Rhino estimates 2011 production will total about 454,000 t (500,000 st) using only continuous miner machines in the Tank bed. Full-scale production could reach about 770,000 t (850,000 st) by 2012. Roughly 45.9 million t (50.6 million st) of recoverable reserves are still available in the Tank, Blind Canyon, and Hiawatha beds in the surrounding area." (2010 Utah Coal Report)

April 19, 2010
"Rhino Resource Partners LP is a Delaware limited partnership formed on April 19, 2010 to acquire Rhino Energy LLC (the "Operating Company"). The Operating Company and its wholly owned subsidiaries produce and market coal from surface and underground mines in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Utah. The majority of sales are made to electric utilities, coal brokers, domestic and non-U.S. steel producers and other coal-related organizations in the United States. In addition, the Partnership continues its sales focus to U.S. export customers through brokers and direct end-user relationships." (Rhino Resource Partners LP SEC Form 10Q, dated March 31, 2020)

May 3, 2010
The actual sales agreement was dated May 3, 2010. The sale was approved by the federal BLM on June 17, 2010.

August 2010
"In August 2010, Rhino acquired certain mining assets of C.W. Mining Company out of bankruptcy. The assets acquired are located in Emery and Carbon Counties, Utah, and include coal reserves and non-reserve coal deposits, underground mining equipment and infrastructure, an overland belt conveyor system, a loading facility and support facilities. Since its acquisition, the Company has made significant progress in staffing the location and preparing the facility to begin production during December 2010." (Rhino Resource Partners LP press release dated November 4, 2010)

August 25, 2010
The sale of the Bear Canyon mine was completed on August 25, 2010. A longwall machine was already in place in the mine, but was the property of the previous owner, C. W. Mining. Rhino would not be using the longwall machine due to its cost of operation. (Emery County Progress, November 5, 2010)

As of October 2010, the Bear Canyon mining complex permit area consisted of a total of 10,991.83 acres. This includes 6,615.43 acres of federal coal and 4,376.40 acres of private coal owned by C. O. P. Development.

Castle Valley Mine No. 3 returned to production in 2011, and continues through 2021.

Castle Valley Mine No. 4 returned to production in 2015, and continues through 2021.

"Rhino purchased the Bear Canyon mines from C.W. Mining (Co-op) in 2010 and changed the mines' name to Castle Valley. Between 2011 and 2014, operators produced a total of 3.5 million st from the Tank bed (#4 mine). Production restarted in the Bear bed (#3 mine) in 2015, and in 2018, production commenced in the Blind bed (also #3 mine). Production totaled 1.0 million st in 2019: 488,000 st from the Tank (#4), 185,000 st from the Bear (#3), and 377,000 st from the Blind (#3). Rhino finished all mining in the Tank bed (#4 mine) in January 2020, and production will continue in the #3 mine in the Bear and Blind beds, with total production reaching about 800,000 st in 2020. Rhino recently acquired the now-closed Deer Creek mine's waste pile facility near the mouth of Huntington Canyon and purchased an airjig cleaning plant that should be operational in summer 2020. Rhino Resource Partners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2020 due to decreases in coal demand." (2019 Utah Coal Report)

On July 22, 2020 Rhino Resource Partners, and its wholly owned subsidiary Rhino Energy, filed voluntarily bankruptcy, first as Chapter 11 (reorganization), then as Chapter 7 (liquidation). According to a press release: Rhino has obtained $11.75 million of post-petition financing and the support from a post-petition bidder to acquire the company. Rhino intends to use the bankruptcy process to implement an orderly sale of substantially all of its assets in an effort to maximize value for all stakeholders and allow for the prospect of continued employment and business opportunities at its operating locations. Rhino Energy is a publicly traded coal company. At the time of its bankruptcy, Rhino held approximately $162.1 million in liabilities, and 550 employees across all of its operations.

September 4, 2020
The bankruptcy court approved the sale of Rhino's assets to the winning bidders, including C.O.P Coal Development Co.

October 14, 2020
Gentry Mountain Mining LLC acquired the Utah assets of Rhino Energy at bankruptcy auction.

Gentry Mountain Mining LLC was registered to do business in Utah on January 8, 2018. At that time its business address was shown as Hiawatha, Utah.

The Gentry name comes from the nearby Gentry Mountain, standing at 9,490 feet above sea level.

As of October 2020, production from the Castle Valley #3 mine has been severely reduced. Gentry Mountain Mining continues to produce from the former Castle Valley #4 mine, which has been renamed as the Gentry mine.