Columbia Coal Mine
Geneva Coal Mine

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Columbia Coal Mine

Columbia Steel Corp. and the Columbia Mine

Utah Coal & Coke Company was organized in Nevada on November 13, 1918 by A. C. Ellis, Jr., Duncan MacVichie, E. J. Raddatz, and C. H. Gibbs; incorporated in Nevada on September 11, 1919; filed in Utah on September 18, 1919. Took over claims of Marana Land & Development Co. (3,120 acres) and J. R. Evera (680 acres). Organized as the coal mining subsidiary of Columbia Steel Corporation. Its coal property was to be known as the Columbia Mine and was located on 4,000 acres four miles south of Sunnyside, Utah, in Water Canyon. A railroad spur line was to be built. The new company held the rights to 3,120 acres of coal lands in the Sunnyside district, purchased from Marana Land and Development Company, and another 680 acres in the same section purchased from J. Van Evera. (Salt Lake Herald Republican, September 20, 1919; The Sun, September 26, 1919)

The coal mine at Columbia was developed from a coal seam located high on the cliffs above the later location of the mine. The mine opening was at a low level tunnel that was driven 1,400 feet into the cliff to reach the coal seam as it dipped into the cliffs. The loaded mine cars were lowered by cable hoist down a 3,400 foot tramway from the mine opening to the tipple, where the coal was crushed for use in the coke by-product ovens at the Ironton iron mill of the Columbia Steel Corporation. (Madsen, p. 35)

In 1922 the Columbia Steel Corporation began building its iron manufacturing plant at Ironton, near Springville. To assure a supply of iron ore, they began developing their own iron mine in Iron County in southwestern Utah, and proposed to build the Iron County Railway to operate between the iron mines near Cedar City and the Union Pacific's Los Angeles & Salt Lake subsidiary at Lund. This railroad was not completed because in 1923 Union Pacific built its own Cedar City Branch instead.

To ensure a ready supply of coal, Columbia Steel organized the Carbon County Railway. This second railroad came from the 1922 development of Columbia's coal property south of Sunnyside, to furnish coking coal for its new iron plant at Ironton, near Springville. The Carbon County Railway was incorporated on July 28, 1922 by Columbia Steel interests specifically to transport coal and coke from their coal mine to their Ironton iron mill.

(Read more about the history of the Carbon County Railway)

By 1922-1923, Columbia Steel was a small rolling-mill and open-hearth steel operation relying on scrap steel with principal operations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Columbia Steel wanted to compete as an integrated steel maker with Bethlehem Steel, which was expanding its presence on the West Coast using very low-cost steel shipped at very low cost in company ships through the Panama Canal. Columbia built the Columbia Works at Ironton, Utah (immediately south of Provo) to provide pig iron to its open hearth furnaces at Pittsburg, California, on the West Coast. The Columbia Works at Ironton, Utah was not a steel mill as it had no provision to make steel. It consisted of byproduct coke ovens, a single blast furnace of medium size, a pig machine, and ancillary support -- it never had an open hearth or a rolling mill of any kind.

The Columbia mine was operated for the purpose of supplying coking coal to the Columbia Steel Company's by-product coking plant and blast furnace, located at Ironton, near Provo, Utah. (Reynolds, p. 236)

The Columbia mine began shipping coal in late July 1923. (Coal Index: The Sun, July 13, 1923, p. 1, "about to begin")

First coal was shipped from the Columbia Mine in mid September 1923. There were 200 miners working. (Coal Index: The Sun, September 14, 1923)

In 1937 the Columbia Mine was declared a "captive" mine due to its providing coal only to the company (Columbia Steel Corporation) that owned it. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, May 27, 1937, p. 8)

(The underground mining methods of Columbia Steel's Columbia coal mine were the subject of a seven-page article in Coal Age magazine, November 1938. The article included several photos of the underground operations, and several diagrams of the mine workings.)

November 26, 1942
There were 500 coke ovens installed at the Columbia Mine between November 1942 and January 1943. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, November 26, 1942, p. 11)

December 8, 1942
The United States Steel Corporation was given the approval of the Interstate Commerce Commission on December 8, 1942 to acquire control of eleven railroads through its various subsidiaries. The application had been made to the Interstate Commerce Commission on November 11, 1942. Included in that total of eleven railroads was the Carbon County Railway, owned by the Columbia Steel Company subsidiary. (ICC Finance Docket 14014)

December 17, 1942
The Columbia Mine was shipping 400 tons per day. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, December 17, 1942)

Five hundred beehive coke ovens were constructed at Columbia by the War Department to increase the coke capacity. A blast furnace for making pig iron was moved from Illinois to Ironton, but the war was almost over by the time that the blast furnace went into operation, therefore both the beehive coke ovens and the blast furnace were only in operation a short time. It was reported that the construction of the beehive coke ovens at Columbia cost $3 million and the movement and installation of the blast furnace cost $9 million. Kaiser purchased both the beehive coke ovens and the blast furnace from the War Assets Administration. (Gibson, Arthur E. "The Kaiser Mine, Sunnyside", Centennial Echos from Carbon County, 1948, p. 261)

March 21, 1946
By mid March 1946 the Columbia mine was producing 1,385 tons per day, but by April 1946 the mine was on standby at the time due to complaints of private industry that they were competing with the U. S. government. Surplus coal was then sold to the U. S. treasury for export.. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, March 21, 1946, p. 13)

May 31, 1967
The coal mine at Columbia, the original mine served by the railroad, was closed on May 31, 1967, leaving the new-in-1943 Horse Canyon mine as the sole source of traffic for the railroad. An earlier source of traffic, other than the Columbia mine was the Bookcliff mine, which was later closed. (Duning, p. 70)

The Ironton iron mill was shutdown in 1962.

April 21, 2005
Bronco Coal Company (a Utah corporation), a wholly owned subsidiary of Bronco Energy Fund, Inc., organized for this purpose, agreed to purchase the Columbia Coal Mine located in Books Cliff, Carbon County, near Price, Utah consisting of approximately 5,000 acres. The mine has been inactive since 1966 and would require significant rehabilitation and the addition of capital improvements to meet current mining standards. (Bronco SEC Form 8-K, dated January 9, 2006)

(Read more about Bronco Utah)

Geneva Coal Mine

During 1942 the Defense Plant Corporation constructed a six mile spur from the Columbia Mine, at the end of the Carbon County Railway, to new Geneva Mine in Horse Canyon. The new mine was developed to furnish coking coal for the new Geneva Steel Mill, near Orem. (Malaby, p. 260)

The new mine was built with a stated capacity of 8,500 tons per day, with 6,500 tons being the daily requirement for the new steel mill. The surplus production was used by railroads and west coast ships as part of the general war effort. Ground was broken in spring 1942 at the new mine and initial underground work at the coal seam began in October 1942. (Madsen, p. 38)

November 1942
New development at the Geneva coal mine is ahead of schedule. Production is expected to begin in November 1942. Six and one-half miles of railroad have been built to the mine, completed in 60 days. (Blast Furnace & Steel Plant, Volume 30, Number 11, November 1942, page 1287)

December 16, 1942
"Geneva Mine Producing 400 Tons Daily -- The Geneva coal mine, which will supply coal to the huge Columbia Steel company plant, is now producing 400 tons a day, Columbia officials said Wednesday. The coal is at present being furnished to the U. S. Army. Columbia Steel officials pointed out that eventually the mine will reach a maximum output of 8500 tons of coal daily, which will be shipped to Geneva and Ironton works near Provo. The mine now has been tunneled around 1200 feet of rock and an additional 2000 feet into the coal seam." (Salt Lake Telegram, December 16, 1942)

January 1944
The tipple at the Geneva mine was completed in January 1944. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, January 27, 1944, p. 2)

November 1, 1945
Utah Coal Producers Association asked that the output of the new Geneva mine be restricted to the needs of the new steel mill. Not all coal from the Geneva was suitable for coke. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, November 1, 1945, p. 1)

April 1946
Geneva mine produced 3,000 tons per day. The mine was on standby due to complaints of private industry that they were competing with the U. S. government. Surplus coal was then sold to the U. S. treasury for export. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, April 18, 1946, p. 16)

June 16, 1946
The Geneva Mine was purchased from the War Assets Administration by the United States Steel Corporation on June 16, 1946. and was operated by the Geneva Steel Company until January 1, 1952, when the Geneva Steel Company became a part of the Columbia-Geneva Steel Division of US Steel.

Improvements to the Geneva mine during 1957 included a new 8,700 foot rock tunnel driven to intersect the coal seam at a point 5,000 feet down the pitch from the surface coal outcrop. The tunnel was nine feet high and thirteen feet wide. The tunnel was driven by W. W. Clyde of Springville, Utah, and was half completed by mid November 1957. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 10, 1957)

March 1958
United States Steel Corporation completed its Wellington coal preparation plant in March 1958. The plant was located along the D&RGW mainline one and a half miles south of Wellington. The plant blended the coal from U. S. Steel's Sunnyside, Utah, and Somerset, Colorado mines to produce a better quality of coal for coking at the Geneva steel plant, by washing the coal to reduce its ash and sulphur content. The plant was built on a 1,500 acre site and processed all the coal mined in Utah and Colorado by the coal properties of Columbia-Geneva Steel Division, United States Steel Corporation.

(Read more about the Wellington Coal Wash Plant)

The coal mine at Columbia, the original mine served by the railroad, was closed on May 31, 1967, leaving the new-in-1943 Horse Canyon mine as the sole source of traffic for the railroad. An earlier source of traffic, other than the Columbia mine was the Bookcliff mine, which was later closed. (Duning, p. 70)

Operations in the late 1970s included a 9:00 to 9:30 am departure for the mine with thirty-eight to forty-five empty, 70-ton capacity coal cars in tow. The train proceeded for the six miles up to the Horse Canyon mine and spent about two hours loading. After the cars were all loaded, the two locomotives pulled the train to the interchange with D&RGW at Columbia Junction, after a short delay setting up air brake retainers at the yard about three miles east of the junction, the entire operation being completed by late afternoon. ("From Mine To Mill," Denis Dunning, Railway Quarterly, Volume 4, Number 3, Fall 1980, pages 66-74)

Plans were made by United States Steel to close the Geneva Mine as early as March 1981.

October 15, 1982
U.S. Steel temporarily suspended mining operations at the Horse Canyon (Geneva) Mine. (Documents on file at Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

(Carbon County Railway was shut down on October 14, 1982, and coal hopper cars were sold. The two locomotives were sent to U. S. Steel's Geneva steel plant near Provo, Utah. -- Extra 2200 South, Issue 80, published in May 1984, p. 30)

January 1984
U. S. Steel informed the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining that it would permanently close the Geneva coal mine. (Documents on file at Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

March 1984
"U.S. Steel's wholly owned U.S. Steel Mining Co. is one of the largest metallurgical coal producers in the U.S. U.S. Steel Mining, which produced 12 million tons of coal in 1983, boasts some 2 billion tons of coal in reserve. But, over the past couple of years, the corporation has been selling coal assets to defray the cost of its purchase of Marathon Oil Corp. Moreover, at the end of December, the company closed five coal mines described as "non-productive, noncompetitive facilities" that contain some 18 million tons of reserves. The coal mines that were closed by U.S. Steel include mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Utah, some of which have been idle since April 1982. They include Mines 9 and 36 in the Dakota District, outside Charleston, W.Va., the No. 10 mine in Gary, W.Va., the South Winifred No. 35 mine in Harlan County, Ky., and the Geneva mine in eastern Utah." (Coal Age, Volume 89, Number 3, March 1984, page 15)

November 11, 1984
Kaiser Steel Corporation purchased the nearby Horse Canyon mine from U.S. Steel, and indicated that it would maintain the operations in a temporary suspension status pending further corporate decisions as to the future use of the facilities. Following Kaiser Coal's bankruptcy in February 1987, on April 5, 1990 Kaiser Coal sold the Horse Canyon mine to Intermountain Power Agency (IPA). During 1990 and 1991, IPA reclaimed the majority of the surface disturbance leaving only a main facilities pad with buildings essential for future mine operations. In September 2000, UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. acquired the Horse Canyon Mine from IPA. (Documents on file at Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

February 1985
"Kaiser Steel Corp. has bought two idle underground coal mines in Carbon County, Utah, from U.S. Steel Corp. for an undisclosed sum. A Kaiser spokesman said the company acquired the Columbia and Geneva mines to provide access from its Sunnyside mine to a 100 million-ton Kaiser lease south of the former U.S. Steel properties. A Kaiser spokesman said develop-met plans will depend on the marketplace." (Coal Age magazine, February 1985, page 39)

The following dates come from the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining, Utah Coal Program, Permit C0070013:

November 11, 1984 -- Kaiser Steel Corporation purchased the Horse Canyon Mine property from U.S. Steel. Kaiser Steel indicated it would maintain the operations in a temporary suspension status pending further corporate decisions as to the future use of the facilities.

February 13, 1987 -- Kaiser Coal Corporation (successor in interest to Kaiser Steel) filed a petition for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

February 2, 1990 -- Kaiser Coal submitted a reclamation plan, which was approved.

April 1990 -- The Horse Canyon mine was sold to Intermountain Power Agency and its partner Andalex Resources, as a potential source of fuel for the Intermountain Power Project near Delta.

April 5, 1990 -- Intermountain Power Agency (IPA) acquired the Horse Canyon Mine.

August 10, 1990 -- Permit rights were transferred to IPA.

October 1990 -- IPA demolished the coal loadout and the mine-to-loadout conveyor as part of its general cleanup of the mine property, leaving only the mine administration building, shops, and locker room.

September 1998 -- IPA sold the Horse Canyon mine to UtahAmerican Energy Incorporated (UEI), a subsidiary of Murray Energy.

September 2005 -- UtahAmerican Energy deeded the remaining buildings and the surrounding facilities at the Horse Canyon Mine site to the College of Eastern Utah. (The deed was transferred on Friday October 20, 2005. The college planned to use the facility as a group of classrooms for a wide variety of outdoor studies, such as paleontology, geology, archeology, biology and art and creative writing. -- Provo Daily Herald, October 23, 2005)

July 25, 2012 -- Phase III of the reclamation of the Horse Canyon mine site was completed and approved.

Lila Canyon Mine

In 1998, UtahAmerican Energy Inc., began development of the Lila Canyon Tract, south of Horse Canyon, with plans to open a coal mine and build a loader on the Union Pacific mainline three miles to the west. (Read more about Lila Canyon)

Carbon County Railway

Carbon County Railway -- Information about the Carbon County Railway, a coal-hauling industrial line in eastern Utah. Also included is a photo album that shows the line's early Baldwin locomotives.


Geneva Coal Mine Photo Album -- A collection of black & white photos of Geneva coal mine in Carbon County, Utah.

More Information

Wellington Coal Prep Plant