United States

West Elk Mine

Click for more information



Mine TypeUnderground
  • Coal (thermal)
Mining Method
  • Longwall
  • Continuous
  • Room-and-pillar
Production Start1981
ShapshotThe West Elk mining complex extracts thermal coal from the E seam. Arch Coal are currently working on developing longwall panels in the B seam at the complex.

During the first three months of 2023, Arch Coal encountered adverse geologic conditions at West Elk thermal coal operation. These conditions impacted both volumes and coal quality. Due to this situation, Company issued force majeure notices to West Elk customers and logistics providers with shipments affected by that event. On September 1, 2023, lifted the force majeure and believe geologic conditions at West Elk will allow normal operations going forward. Arch Coal continue to communicate with customers and logistics providers, to manage the transition back to normal operations.


Arch Resources, Inc. 100 % Indirect
Mountain Coal Company, LLC (operator) 100 % Direct
Arch Resources, Inc. 100% owns West Elk mine.

Mountain Coal Company, LLC, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Arch Resources, Inc., operates West Elk mine.


ContractorContractDescriptionRef. DateSource
Union Pacific Railroad Haulage Shipment of coal for customers via the Union Pacific railroad. Dec 31, 2023

Deposit type

  • Sedimentary


The West Elk mining complex extracts thermal coal from the E seam. West Elk is currently working on developing the B seam at the complex.

The Mine has access to six coal seams that are stacked underground horizontally. The seams are identified alphabetically—A through F—with the A Seam being the deepest seam. The F Seam is closest to the surface and several hundred feet underground. The seams are separated by layers of shale, siltstone, and sandstone that vary in thickness from between 15 and 250 feet.

Reserves at December 31, 2023

CategoryTonnage CommodityMarketable Coal
Proven M tons Coal (thermal) 35 M tons
Probable M tons Coal (thermal) 3.2 M tons
Proven & Probable M tons Coal (thermal) 38.2 M tons
Measured 51.2 M tons Coal (thermal)
Indicated 10.7 M tons Coal (thermal)
Measured & Indicated 61.9 M tons Coal (thermal)

Mining Methods

  • Longwall
  • Continuous
  • Room-and-pillar


West Elk is an underground mining complex located in Gunnison County, Colorado. The West Elk mining complex extracts thermal coal from the E seam and currently working on developing the B seam at the complex.

The mine has six portals leading into the F seam portion of the mine. The mine has a total of four ventilation shafts that supply ventilation into the B seam and E seam portions of the mine. One ventilation shaft provides exhausting ventilation to the E seam. The average seam thickness is 10 feet.

West Elk complex currently consists of a longwall, continuous miner sections and a loadout facility.

Longwall mining involves using a mechanical shearer to extract coal from long rectangular blocks of medium to thick seams. Ultimate seam recovery using longwall mining techniques can exceed 75%. In longwall mining, continuous miners are used to develop access to these long rectangular coal blocks. Hydraulically powered supports temporarily hold up the roof of the mine while a rotating drum mechanically advances across the face of the coal seam, cutting the coal from the face. Chain conveyors then move the loosened coal to an underground mine conveyor system for delivery to the surface. Once coal is extracted from an area, the roof is allowed to collapse in a controlled fashion behind the hydraulic roof supports. Depending on the depth of the cover, the seam thickness and overlying geology, the collapse of the roof can cause surface subsidence.

- Seam - E;
- Seam height - 108-168 inches;
- Cutting height - 108-156 inches;
- Panel width - 1,100 ft;
- Panel length - 3,000-7,000 ft;
- Overburden - 400-1,100 ft;
- No. of gate entries - 3;
- Depth of cut - 42 inches;
- Shearer - Joy 7LS5, double-drum ranging arm shearer with 2,360 hp installed;
- Haulage system - Jumbotrac;
- Roof support yield (tons) - HBT 1,271;
- Roof support controls (type) - HBT PMC-R;
- Face conveyor type (strand, motors) - HBT, 48-mm chain, twin strand inboard, three 1,650-hp motors;
- Face conveyor drives - HBT CST;
- Face conveyor width/speed - 1,188 mm/371 fpm;
- Stageloader type, width, speed - HBT, 1,388 mm, 464 fpm;
- Crusher - HBT;
- Electrical controls - Service Machine;
- Voltage to face - 4,160.

Room and pillar mining is effective for small blocks of thin coal seams. In room and pillar mining, a network of rooms is cut into the coal seam, leaving a series of pillars of coal to support the roof of the mine. Continuous miners are used to cut the coal and shuttle cars are used to transport the coal to a conveyor belt for further transportation to the surface. The pillars generated as part of this mining method can constitute up to 40% of the total coal in a seam. Higher seam recovery rates can be achieved if retreat mining is used. In retreat mining, coal is mined from the pillars as workers retreat. As retreat mining occurs, the roof is allowed to collapse in a controlled fashion.


Crushers and Mills

Milling equipment has not been reported.


  • Crush & Screen plant


Raw coal from West Elk mine is shipping directly via the Union Pacific railroad. When required to improve the quality of some of our coal production, it is processed through the 800 ton-per-hour preparation plant. The loadout facility can load an 11,000-ton train in less than three hours.


Coal (thermal) M tons 2.94.332.
All production numbers are expressed as ROM coal.

Operational metrics

Coal tonnes mined 3,130,767 tons4,355,703 tons3,272,864 tons2,538,091 tons4,079,345 tons4,674,833 tons4,821,281 tons4,156,405 tons5,074,821 tons

Production Costs

Commodity production costs have not been reported.


Book Value M USD 31.2  13.3  0.3   49.9  

Heavy Mobile Equipment

Ref. Date: January 1, 2024

HME TypeModelQuantity
Shearer Komatsu Joy 7LS5 1


Mine Management

Job TitleNameEmailProfileRef. Date
General Manager Weston Norris wnorris@archrsc.com LinkedIn Mar 15, 2024

Total WorkforceYear
330 2023
322 2022
254 2021
320 2020
348 2019
299 2018
266 2017
261 2016
367 2015
351 2014
358 2013
368 2012

Aerial view:


- subscription is required.