Contractors for Corsa Coal Corp. are busy digging a hole larger than a football field in Somerset County. Their goal is the Middle Kittanning seam — buried about 120 feet deep.
The Canonsburg-based company is on schedule to open its Acosta Deep Mine in May, with a plan for at least 70 miners to remove about three miles of metallurgical-quality coal — used in steelmaking — over the next decade. Starting a new mine in an era when many are shutting down feels good, said Robert Bottegal, Corsa’s general manager for engineering.
“There will be some more jobs in the area, which is great,” Bottegal said. The number of bituminous coal mines operating in the United States plummeted from 1,010 in 2001 to 431 in 2015, according to the U.S.
Energy Information Administration. Several trends drove the decline: Natural gas-fired electric plants replaced coal-fired operations, and weak demand for steel caused a five-year slump in international metallurgical coal prices — which fell from about $200 per ton in 2010 to a low of about $74 per ton in November 2015.
Prices rallied last year when China reduced working days at its coal mines from 330 days per year to 276, industry analysts said.
China loosened that restriction in November, causing met coal prices to fall from a peak of $300 per metric ton in Australia, a bellwether for international prices. The U.S. East Coast price peaked at about $230 per ton, dropping since to about $160.
Corsa plans to start hiring miners for the Acosta mine in five to seven weeks, said company CEO George G. Dethlefsen.
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