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Castle Gate Coal Mines

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Castle Gate Coal Mine

In his original 1881 survey for D&RGW, Micah T. Burgess, the road's chief engineer, stated that a coal vein was located about a mile up Willow Creek. In his report, Burgess stated that development of the coal vein would require a 4,000 foot railroad spur line and a 1,100 foot gravity tramway from the mine. (D&RGW: 1881 Engineer's Report, p. 15)

Pleasant Valley Coal Company, operator of the Winters Quarters mine, in 1888 sent their chief engineer, Robert Forrester, with a party of men to prospect the coal veins which showed at the surface at Castle Gate. (Madsen, p. 29)

The first formal discovery of coal at Castle Gate came in 1888:

"In August, 1888, Alexander McLean and a few others made the actual discovery of coal in the mountains adjacent to the location of Castle Gate and commenced work at once. The first test of making coke was undertaken by these men in October, 1888, and as the experiment proved successful, a coal-mining town soon sprang into existence, and before the year was ended the first carload of coal was shipped from the mine so recently opened. Among the employees at the mines were Latter-day Saints, who were organized into a branch of the Church in November, 1888." (Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, p. 121)

The mine known as Castle Gate No. 1 was opened by the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in 1888 to develop the good coking coal found there. The first coke ovens in lower Castle Gate were opened in 1889. (Watts: First Mine, p. 39)

(Madsen, page 28, states that Castle Gate No. 1 was opened soon after D&RGW's arrival at Castle Gate in 1883.)

Utah Fuel Company was organized in New Jersey in 1887 as a subsidiary of Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway (of Utah) to operate the Clear Creek and Sunnyside mines in Utah and the Somerset mine in Colorado. The original Winter Quarters mine and the Castle Gate mine was operated by the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, which merged with Utah Fuel in 1899. (Powell, Next Time We Strike, p. 21)

Utah Fuel Company was the new name for Utah Coal & Coke Company of New Jersey, which had increased its stock in 1901 for the purpose. (Wilson, p. 108)

(Utah Fuel may have existed prior to this particular 1901 corporate move, but no other information is available.)

Utah Fuel purchased the Winter Quarters mine in 1882, the Castle Gate mine in 1888, and developed the Sunnyside mine in 1900. (Alexander, p. 237)

Utah Fuel Company remained a subsidiary of the railroad when it was reorganized as the Rio Grande Western in 1889, and was sold to the Denver & Rio Grande along with the Rio Grande Western in May 1901. The D&RG was forced to sell all of its stock in Utah Fuel in June 1918. The coal company was sold to William Salomon of New York for $4 million. (Athearn: Rio Grande, pp. 194, 195, 236)

The Castle Gate Coal Company was incorporated on May 21, 1898. The corporation was voluntarily dissolved on November 8, 1950. (Utah corporation, index number 2233)

(This was the first of three companies with the Castle Gate Coal Company name, and may have been the name used by Utah Fuel for the Castle Gate mine.)

Utah Fuel Company was incorporated on April 17, 1901. (Utah corporation, index number 3111)

By 1901, Utah Fuel operated all of the former Pleasant Valley Coal Company mines, with the Pleasant Valley company serving as the retail outlet for the coal. (Higgins: Industries, p. 13)

The first mention of Utah Fuel Company in the property records was on June 18, 1902 when E. L. Carpenter sold 2,446.93 acres at Castle Gate to Utah Fuel Company. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 3, p. 575)

A. C. Watts, the chief engineer for Utah Fuel at the time, stated in a 1913 article that the coal deposits at Castle Gate on the mainline of the RGW were opened in 1889, and that the Castle Gate mine was the second commercial mine in Carbon County, after Winter Quarters. The Castle Gate mine was also notable because it was the first mine to sprinkle coal dust with water to control the fire hazard and the first to use electricity in a coal mine. (Watts: Carbon County, p. 400)

The first tipple at Castle Gate was built by World & Robertson in either 1889 or 1890, ("1890…just prior to this time"), just before they completed the Wasatch Store building, which contained the company offices. (Madsen, p. 29)

The first coke ovens at Castle Gate were built in 1889, and they were immediately put into commission producing coke for the Salt Lake smelters. (Madsen, p. 29)

In 1896 the 104 coke ovens at Castle Gate produced 20,448 tons of coke. The State Mine Inspector in his 1897 report called the Castle Gate operation the most extensive one in the state. The coke wasn't of the best quality, and was acceptable only until the coke from Sunnyside took its place. (Watts: First Mine, p. 39)

There were 201 coke ovens by November 1901, producing about 5,000 tons of coke per month. The coke was produced from slack shipped from the Sunnyside mine. (Higgins: Industries, p. 14)

All coal from Sunnyside from 1899 to 1902 was sent to Castlegate to be made into coke. In the years 1902-1903, 480 coke ovens were built at Sunnyside. These were increased to 550 in 1912, to 624 in 1914, and again to 713 ovens in 1917, although not all ovens were in operation at the same time. The first coke was produced at Sunnyside in April 1902, and the volume grew steadily until the late 1920s. In 1929 coking operations were practically suspended. Coke production was suspended at Castlegate in 1905. (Madsen, p. 53)

In October 1907 the coke ovens at Castle Gate were closed. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, October 3, 1907, p. 3)

In November 1910, 201 coke ovens at Castle Gate were returned to production. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, November 3, 1910, p. 8)

By early 1910 Castle Gate was known as one of the first coal mines in the United States to demonstrate the possibilities of using electricity underground, including, along with the Sunnyside mine, the safety of "shot firing", or the use of electricity to remotely detonate the blasting of coal with all men out of the mine. (Harrington, p. 21)

(Willow Creek Canyon, which meets Price River Canyon at the Castle Gate rock formation, is the route of today's U. S. Highway 191 between Castle Gate and Duchesene. Utah Power's Carbon Steam Generating Plant is at the mouth of Willow Creek canyon.)

In 1912 Castle Gate No. 2 was opened, located in Willow Creek canyon. (Watts: First Mine, p. 39)

The first coal seam opened by Utah Fuel in Willow Creek canyon was a disappointing four feet thick. Later explorations showed a twenty foot seam directly below, which was reached by a pair of rock tunnels. The coal from the Willow Creek (Castle Gate No. 2) mine was found to be the finest coal in the region. (Madsen, p. 29)

During the summer of 1912 a steel tipple was erected at the Castle Gate mine, being the second steel tipple in the state, and also the second steel tipple for a Utah Fuel mine. (Watts: Carbon County, p. 404)

The steel tipple of the Castle Gate Coal Company was built by the Ottumwa Box Car Loader Company. (Lewis, p. 19)

In May 1912, Utah Fuel had five mines operating in Utah. The company was building fifty cottages for workers at Willow Creek for the opening of production of that new mine. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, May 23, 1912, p. 5)

(In July 1913 the U. S. government filed suit against D&RG over its ownership of Utah Fuel. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, July 17, 1913, p. 2))

(RESEARCH: Find court proceedings for U. S. government suit against D&RG and Utah Fuel, circa July 1913.)

(Mr. T. A. Ketchum filed a suit against Pleasant Valley Coal Company, Utah Fuel Company, and D&RG. (Coal Index: News-Advocate, December 24, 1915, p. 1) Ketchum was from Portland, Oregon, and organized the Ketchum Coal Company at Castle Gate. The mine was under development in July 1914. (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1914, p. 32; August 15, 1914, p. 28))

(RESEARCH: Find proceedings for Ketchum's suit against Utah Fuel, Pleasant Valley Coal and D&RG, circa December 1915.)

Castle Gate mines 1 and 2 were located on opposite sides of the canyon from each other. The opening for Castle Gate No. 1 was about 600 feet southwest of the tipple, which straddled D&RG's mainline between Price and Salt Lake City. The opening for the No. 2 mine was in Willow Creek canyon, about mile to the northeast, and the coal mined there traveled to the tipple over a 5,300 foot long electric haulage tram, being pulled by an electric 15-ton General Electric mine locomotive. The gauge of this tramway was forty inches and it was built on a two percent grade in favor of the loaded mine cars. The tramway passed through two tunnels, one was 1,000 feet long and the other, 400 feet. The tipple at Castle Gate screened the coal into four different sizes: dust coal passed through a 3/8-inch screen; screened slack was from 3/8-inch to 1-5/8 inch; nut coal was from 1-5/8-inch to 6-inch; and lump was everything greater than 6-inch. A box car loader was used to load nut and lump coal into box cars. During mid 1914, output of the No. 1 mine was about 850 tons per day and about 600 tons per day from the No. 2 mine. (Lewis, pp. 19,20)

In 1922 Castle Gate No. 3 was opened. The new mine was located between Castle Gate and the Bear canyon mine to the north, and was the first vertical shaft coal mine in Utah. (Madsen, p. 29)

(PHOTOGRAPHS: Photo of Castle Gate No. 2, the Willow Creek mine, was in Coal Age, Volume 3, number 33, January 18, 1913, p. 90)

(PHOTOGRAPH: Castle Gate mine with wooden tipple, Wilson, p. 114, from Colorado Historical Society.)

Castle Gate mine explosion killed 180 men on March 8, 1924. (Coal Index: The Sun, March 14, 1924, p. 1)

Casualties were changed to 171 killed. (Coal Index: The Sun, March 21, 1924, p. 1)

By late July 1924, the mine was declared safe by the state mine inspector and was reopened. (Coal Index: The Sun, July 25, 1924)

The Castle Gate mines, both No. 1 and No. 2, started to work five days a week in late November 1933, until the end of February 1934. The average daily output of the mines was 2,500 tons. (Coal Index, Sun Advocate, November 30, 1933, p. 8)

Utah Fuel opened a new $300,000 coal washing and preparation plant at Castle Gate on February 24, 1940. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, February 15, 1940, p. 1)

The new Castle Gate coal plant produced coal that had been cleaned of dirt and rock, washed, and treated with oil to enhance its market value. (Madsen, p. 31)

By 1947 the Castle Gate No. 1 mine had been closed because of a fire, and Castle Gate No. 3 had also been closed, leaving the No. 2 mine as the only producer. (Madsen, p. 29)

In 1950 Kaiser bought Utah Fuel, and operated the properties at Sunnyside, Clear Creek and Castle Gate as the Utah Fuel Division of Kaiser Steel. Kaiser later sold the Castle Gate and Clear Creek operations to Independent Coal & Coke, which later sold both operations to North American Coal Company. North American later sold the Castle Gate property to McCulloch Oil Company, and the Clear Creek property to Valley Camp Coal Company. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 5)

Utah Fuel Company, incorporated on April 17, 1901, became the Book Cliffs Coal Corporation on March 5, 1951. (Utah corporation, index number 3111)

Utah Fuel Company was merged with Book Cliffs Coal Corporation, a Kaiser subsidiary, on December 5, 1950. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 15-D, p. 4)

Book Cliffs Coal Corporation was merged with Kaiser Steel Corporation on February 23, 1951. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 15-D, p. 59)

In December 1951 the Independent Coal & Coke Company purchased the holdings of the Utah Fuel Company, including the mine at Clear Creek, and the mine and coal washing plant at Castle Gate. At that time, most of the coal being mined from Kenilworth was being transported around the mountain by rail from Kenilworth to the Castle Gate coal washing plant. (HAER: Kenilworth, pp. 27,28)

November 1954
Utah Power & Light constructed its Carbon Steam Generating Plant at Castle Gate in the mid 1950s. The first unit went into operation in November 1954, and the second unit came on line in August 1957. (McCormick: UP&L, p. 121)

In 1958 Independent Coal & Coke began a 5,000 foot rock tunnel that was drilled north from the 1924-built Aberdeen tunnel to the main slope of the former Utah Fuel Willow Creek mine. With the completion of this new tunnel in 1959, coal was gravity fed down to the Castle Gate mine's main haulage tunnels and exited at the Castle Gate portals, adjacent to the coal washing plant, eliminating the cost of hauling coal around the mountain by railroad. (HAER: Kenilworth, pp. 27,28)

Castle Gate No. 2 was officially closed on February 4, 1960, the same date that the new Castle Gate No. 4 was officially opened. The old Castle Gate No. 2 would after that date only be used as a main artery between the Kenilworth and Castle Gate mines. With the closure of the No. 2 mine, all workings were sealed and the track gauge changed from forty inches to forty-two inches. Work on a tunnel to connect the Kenilworth workings with the Castle Gate workings was to be completed in March 1960. The tunnel would permit moving of Kenilworth coal to the Castle Gate facilities and eliminate tipple work at Kenilworth and a heavy freight expense. Kenilworth was producing about 1,800 to 2,000 tons per day, and Clear Creek was producing about 800 tons per day. Operations at the mines of the Independent Coal & Coke Company were reduced due to the depressed coal market, with the company cutting back from a five day week to a four day week, and laying off ninety-one miners from their operations, fifty from Castle Gate, twenty-eight from Kenilworth, and thirteen from Clear Creek. (Deseret News, February 5, 1960)

Independent Coal & Coke later sold both Castle Gate and Clear Creek to North American Coal Company. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 5)

Independent Coal & Coke Company sold its coal interests at Castle Gate/Kenilworth and Clear Creek to North American Coal Company in 1968. North American Coal sold the same properties to an undisclosed company in February 1973. North American Coal closed the Castle Gate mine in 1972 when Utah Power & Light purchased the Deseret Mine from the LDS church to supply coal for power generation. At its peak the North American mine produced about 650,000 tons, about 375,000 tons of that production was sold to Utah Power & Light and was used at the Carbon Steam Generating Plant. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 1973)

North American Oil later sold the Castle Gate property to McCulloch Oil Company. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 5)

The town of Castle Gate was dismantled in 1974, and the remaining 200 residents relocated to sixty new homes in a new Castle Gate subdivision, located at the mouth of Spring Canyon. The new community was annexed to Helper. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, p. 4)

In 1974 the Castle Gate townsite was sold to McCulloch Oil. The town of Castle Gate was gone by May 1974. Many of the old homes were moved to the Castle Gate subdivision at the mouth of Spring Canyon in West Helper. (Zehnder, pp. 12,13)

The original Castle Gate No. 1 was sealed 6500 feet from the portal opening when the mine was closed. In 1975-76, McCulloch Oil Company renovated the first 4,400 feet of of the rock tunnel and drove a secondary rock tunnel down to the Sub 3 Seam. A conveyor belt was installed in the rock tunnel and out through the portal to transport coal to the Castle Gate Preparation Plant, under construction at that time. The new conveyor belt traveled out of the old portal to a hopper transfer station, where the coal decended 35 feet to a second converyor belt in a tube that traveled under U.S. Highway 6, and over the Price River and the D&RGW tracks to the new cola preparation plant. (Documents on file at Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

May 9, 1988
"98 LAID OFF AT CASTLE GATE -- Associated Press -- The Castle Gate Coal Co. has laid off 86 hourly and 12 salaried employees at its underground mine due to depressed market conditions, the company has announced. The layoffs leave 155 hourly and salaried workers at the mine. The company decided to reduce its operating level below the 1.5 million tons annual capacity and to concentrate efforts on existing customers and commitments, according to a news release. Castle Gate has been developing and rehabilitating the mine since 1986 and recently finished installing a new unit train rapid-loadout system. The company also has signed two new agreements to supply coal to industrial users in California, the release said." (Deseret News, May 9, 1988)

June 28, 1988
"AMAX CREATES SUBSIDIARY TO MANAGE COAL INTERESTS -- Officials of AMAX Inc., which has mining operations in Utah, Wyoming and the Midwest, have created a new wholly owned subsidiary, Amax Coal Industries, that will be responsible for managing the company's coal and coal-related business interests. The AMAX subsidiaries that will come under the Amax Coal Industries umbrella are Amax Coal Co., Amax Coal Sales Co., Castle Gate Coal Co., Beech Coal Co., Meadowlark Inc., Ayrshire Land Co. and Ayrshire Collieries Corp. AMAX is the third largest coal producer in the United States, producing 38.6 million tons for steam generation in 1987." (Deseret News, June 28, 1988)

March 22, 1989
"PRODUCTION HALTED AT MINE NEAR HELPER -- UPI -- Castle Gate Coal Co., a subsidiary of AMAX Coal Industries, has indefinitely suspended production at the Castle Gate Mine near Helper, Utah, due to geologic problems, spokesman Jeffrey Weber says. Mining operations were halted March 22 after the U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a citation for hazardous coal and rock bursts, Weber said. Thomas Blangiardo, president of Castle Gate, said the mine has experienced unusual geologic conditions for the past several months. 'These bursts currently present an uncontrollable and unstable mining environment for our employees,' Blangiardo said. 'We have evaluated and attempted various methods for destressing the coal to overcome this problem and have retained outside consultants to assist us in this process. However, to date, we have been unable to satisfactorily resolve this situation to the point where we can safely resume operations,' he said. 'We plan to continue evaluating geologic conditions and mining techniques in the hope of resuming mining operations at Castle Gate in the future.' Although coal production has been suspended, Blangiardo said the company will resume certain work, effective Monday, involving coal preparation, maintenance and other related activities. But after June 5, only about 17 of the mine's employees will remain at the property, while 156 hourly and 41 salaried workers will be indefinitely laid off, Swenson said. Castle Gate began operating the mine in 1986 and produced 544,000 tons of coal in 1988, he said." (Deseret News, April 9, 1989; April 13, 1989)

August 23, 1991
The following comes from the August 23, 1991 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper:

CASTLE GATE - AMAX Coal Industries is closing mine portals and other access points at its Castle Gate Coal Co. mine, idled two years ago. The company is taking the action to prevent accidents from unauthorized entry, spokesman Kevin Feeney said.

The mine will retain its operating status of "idle," allowing management to take a "hard look" at reopening if it could sell coal competitively, he said.

That likely will involve correcting the underground geological problems that led to the mine's closure or making a large expenditure to develop other coal reserves. At today's prices, such corrective measures would make the coal non-competitive.

The 1989 idling of Castle Gate Coal put 156 hourly and 41 salaried employees out of work.

Castle Gate Coal is maintaining its state mining permit in "inactive status," according to Lowell Braxton, associate director of mining for the Utah Division of Oil Gas & Mining. That means the mine doesn't have to remain active, but it must continue to meet state and federal environmental regulations as if it were operating, he said. "It's not unusual for companies like Castle Gate Coal to be in inactive status with the permit for a number of years as they evaluate their future," said Mr. Braxton. "But we still inspect the companies' mines on a monthly basis, and if they aren't complying with state and federal environmental regulations, we take action."

AMAX "indefinitely suspended" mining at Castle Gate Coal because it couldn't stop the unpredictable explosion of coal and rock at the face of its Hardscrabble Canyon mine, just north of Helper, Carbon County. Four months earlier, the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration had cited the company for hazardous coal and rock bursts. AMAX retained outside consultants to evaluate and "de-stress" the coal. But the company decided to idle the operation because the mine was unsafe.

In 1987, the last full year it operated, Castle Gate Coal produced 529,000 tons. That compares with 544,000 tons in 1988. AMAX originally projected Castle Gate Coal would produce 1.5 million tons a year. But that was before the geological problems made it impossible for mining to continue.

November 13, 1993
"CYPRUS MINERALS-AMAX HOLDERS BACK MERGER -- Shareholders of the Cyprus Minerals Company and of Amax Inc. voted yesterday to approve the companies' proposed merger. The merger creates the biggest United States-based mining company and the nation's second-largest producer of coal and copper. The new company, with assets of more than $5 billion, will also have significant holdings in oil and gas, gold and lithium. The two companies had combined 1992 revenue of $2.8 billion. The new concern is named the Cyprus Amax Minerals Company. A new co-chairman, Milton Ward, said a primary goal of the merger was to cut costs. He said the merger would save at least $120 million a year in general and administrative expenses. The companies hope to complete the merger on Monday (November 15, 1993). The merger involves the exchange of a half share of Cyprus for each Amax share." (New York Times, November 13, 1993)

Amax sold the Castle Gate coal preparation plant to Cyprus Plateau in 1996 (for use by the new Willow Creek mine?). The Castle Gate facility had been idle since the Castle Gate mine was closed in 1991. Following a jury trial in July 2000 that found against the two companies after the United Mines Workers had filed suit for breach of contract, in January 2002 the court entered its judgment order in the amount of nearly $1.5 million, representing the lost wages and benefits the members would have earned in the approximately four-and-a-half years they were not working from the time the plant was re-opened until it finally closed in several weeks after the trial in 2000. In October 2002, the companies appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit. After a period of briefing and oral argument, the Appellate Court finally upheld the breach of contract award against Amax on December 30, 2004. Even though Amax declared bankruptcy, RAG American Coal Co took responsibility for the litigation when it acquired Cyprus Amax Coal Company. (Sun Advocate, February 15, 2005)

Willow Creek Mine

Historically, the original mines in Willow Creek canyon were the Utah Fuel (later Castle Gate) mine no. 2 and Utah Fuel (later Castle Gate) mine no. 4. These two mines produced coal that was transported by a tramway (which included two short tunnels) to the Castle Gate coal preparation plant that straddled the D&RGW mainline. Also in the Castle Gate area was Utah Fuel (later Castle gate) mine no. 1, located on the west side of the railroad mainline, south and west of the Castle Gate coal preparation plant. Castle Gate No. 3 was opened in 1922 and was located about 3/4 mile north and west of the coal preparation plant, and was the first vertical shaft coal mine in Utah. Castle Gate No. 3 was closed in 1937 due to flooding from the Price River.

Most of the initial mine development work for the new Willow Creek mine began in 1997 using continuous miners and electric shuttle cars. High productivity longwall mining systems for coal production began in 1998. Coal was hauled from the mine using a high speed main conveyor system fed by several face conveyors located at each of the active development areas, both continuous miner sections and longwall panels. A fire in November 1998 in the D Seam stopped production for about a year. An integrated program of geotechnical monitoring and a gob vent borehole network of surface holes was used to monitor ground conditions and remove methane gas in advance mining. Another fire in July 2000 idled the mine. The mine was permanently closed in September 2002. Postmining land use to industrial purposes was approved for the prep plant and mine buildings in 2004. Final reclamation was completed in April 2006. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Permit C0070038)

"Plateau Mining's construction of the Willow Creek mine commenced during the fourth quarter of 1995. Facilities construction, including refurbishment of the preparation plan, was completed in 1997. Longwall start-up is expected in the second quarter of 1998, and total capital expenditures was higher than expected due to geologic conditions that have increased the cost of underground development and reduced the saleable pre-production coal available as a credit to development costs. The planned life of the Willow Creek mine is at least 20 years. Willow Creek owns its production equipment and leases and subleases its coal reserves, mainly from the federal government." (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1998)

"On September 30, 1997, Cyprus Amax sold a 15 percent interest in its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation, to Mitsubishi Corporation for cash proceeds of $29 million. Cyprus Plateau operates the new Willow Creek and the existing Star Point mines in Utah. The Willow Creek mine will replace the existing Star Point mine, which is phasing out its mine life." (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1998)

"Longwall start-up at the newly constructed Willow Creek mine commenced in mid-July 1998, with commercial production achieved on October 1, 1998. On November 25, 1998, an underground mine fire occurred at Willow Creek. There were no injuries, and all employees were safely evacuated and the mine was sealed in a remarkably short period of time. There was minimal damage to the mine and longwall, and continuous miner production is projected to restart in late March 1999. The majority of the Willow Creek workforce has been temporarily assigned to the nearby Star Point mine where production has been expanded to partially mitigate the absence of production from Willow Creek. The losses that have and are being incurred are expected to be partially offset by insurance recoveries expected to be realized in 1999 and 2000. (Cyprus Amax Mineral Company, SEC Form 10-K, 1999)

RAG American Coal Company was a subsidiary of RAG AG, which was formed in 1968 as Ruhrkohle AG. In 2001, RAG AG was one of the world's leading hard coal producers and Germany's number one coal producer. Based in Germany, the company consisted of an international group of more than 450 companies active in mining, coal trading, engineering, power generation, and chemicals, and had over 220 subsidiaries around the world. After RAG American bought Cyprus Amax in 1999, its parent company RAG International became the second largest coal producer in the world. (International Directory of Company Histories, St. James Press, 2001.) (AG is an abbreviation for Aktiengesellschaft, the German translation for a corporation owned by its shareholders and traded on a stock market. Wikipedia)

August 1, 2000
A fire and explosion at the Willow Creek coal mine killed two miners. The mine remained closed since that incident. In Willow Creek, pockets of methane -- a combustible gas often found in coal mines -- are unusually common. Crude oil also drips from the ceiling, vaporizing into a flammable cloud. Sparks from heavy machinery and rocks collapsing can ignite either one. The fire and explosion took place about 2,000 feet underground and two miles from the mine's portal. the two miners, Gordon Nielsen and Micah Stansfield, were two of 10 miners working in the D-3 section of the longwall mine. Longwall mining in the D-3 section had only started July 16. Under current ownership, the Willow Creek Mine has been operating since July 1998. Operated by Cyprus Plateau Mining Corp., a subsidiary of RAG American Coal, Willow Creek produced about 5 million tons of coal annually, much of which went to the Intermountain Power Project near Delta. The future of the mine remains uncertain. (Deseret News, August 2, 2000; April 10, 2001)

Mitsubishi Corporation owned 15 percent of the Willow Creek mine at the time of the fire in the mine, the mine's closure, and subsequent $83 million insurance settlement in 2001 for property damage and business interruption.

September 27, 2000
Utah Railway operated the last coal train to be loaded from the Willow Creek mine at Castle Gate. The mine was closed following the fire and explosion on July 31, 2000 where two workers were killed. (CTC Board Railroads Illustrated, January 2001, page 15)

August 5, 2004
RAG American Coal was purchased by Foundation Coal Holdings, Inc. The properties purchased included the closed Willow Creek mine, along with the closed Star Point mine. (Caster Star Tribune, August 5, 2004, "today") (link)

(click here for more information about RAG American Coal Company, including the corporate succession to today's Alpha American Coal Company, LLC.)

U. S. Fuel's Panther Mine

Frank N. Cameron was working 30 men during late 1911 at the Panther mine and expected to open the mine soon. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, January 4, 1912)

Cameron was working 20 men at the Panther mine, where the development work was providing about four cars of coal per week. The coal was hauled to the D&RG cars by wagon. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, May 30, 1912, p. 5)

The Panther mine was located only about a half mile south of the Castle Gate rock formation. (USGS: "Castlegate", 1 to 62,500, 1916)

In July 1912 Cameron sold his mines at Panther and Castle Gate to the W. G. Sharp interests. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, July 11, 1912, p. 1)

Castle Gate Coal & Coke Co., corporation was dissolved in July 1912. The coal lands of the Castle Gate Coal & Coke Co., consisted of about 700 acres, and were sold to the W. G. Sharp interests. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, July 18, 1912, p. 4)

The "Willow Creek" and "Castle Gate" properties of F. N. Cameron were taken over by the W. G. Sharp interests. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, July 18, 1912, p. 6)

The Castle Gate Coal Company was incorporated on August 5, 1912. (Utah corporation, index number 9704) The Castle Gate Coal Company became the Panther Coal Company on September 8, 1913. (Utah corporation, index number 10280)

(This was the second of three companies with the Castle Gate Coal Company name, and may have been the corporate vehicle used by United States Smelting to purchase Cameron's Panther coal mine.)

(A third company with the same Castle Gate Coal Company name was actually incorporated as the Castle Gate Coal, Coke & Fuel Company on September 8, 1913. This third company became the Castle Gate Coal Company on July 29, 1948, which was sold to the Bamberger Coal Company (incorporated on June 30, 1939) on January 17, 1949. This was the third of three companies with this name, and may have been a retail coal dealer.) (Utah corporation, index number 10281)

Panther mine was incorporated on August 5, 1912 by the Castle Gate Coal Company. Succeeded by the Panther Coal Company on September 8, 1913. The Panther mine began operation in 1914. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

First coal shipment from the Panther mine was on February 12, 1914. The Panther mine was leased by W. G. Sharp to Frank Cameron and John Crawford, the mine's first superintendent. Improvements at the Panther mine during 1914 included a new mine opening into the Castle Gate coal vein, along with a cable operated tramway between the mine and the tipple, located on a spur of the D&RG. (Salt Lake Mining Review, October 30, 1914, p. 21)

The Panther mine was served by D&RG until Utah Railway began their own operations in December 1917, then the Panther mine was served by Utah Railway. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

The Panther spur was shown in 1919 map of Utah Railway as being the property of the United States Fuel, and was located about a half mile north of Utah Railway Junction. (map of Utah Railway, as of January 1, 1919)

The lease to Cameron and Crawford expired on April 1, 1918 and United States Fuel, who had taken over all of the Sharp coal interests, took over the operation of the mine. (Madsen, p. 39)

A town for the mine workers was built in a flat area located at the mouth of Panther canyon, about one mile south of the mine, along the Price River and the mainline of the D&RG. The town was known as Panther, served by the Carbon post office, a branch of the Helper post office (USGS: "Castlegate", 1 to 62,500, 1916)

At first, Frank Cameron named the town at the mouth of Panther canyon as Panther, after the canyon. Later the name was changed to Carbon for short period of time. Finally the town was known as Heiner. (Zehnder, p. 14)

A post office was established at Panther in October 1918. At that time, the name was changed to Heiner, named for Moroni Heiner, vice president of United States Fuel Company. (Coal Index: The Sun, October 18, 1918, p. 6)

(The Sun-Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, page 3, states that the exact reason Panther wasn't chosen for the town's name is unclear, but that early newspaper accounts state that the U. S. Post Office would not accept the name of Panther because it was the name of a wild animal. The 1916 USGS map shows the town as "Panther, Carbon PO")

The Panther mine was established by the United States Fuel, which operated a cable tramway from the coal mine down to the tipple and the railroad. (Clark, p. 109)

An upgrade to the tipple at the Panther mine was completed in October 1924 to include better screening and a loading boom for Panther-brand nut and 3-inch by 8-inch lump coals. (United States Fuel: Firing Line, Volume 1, number 7, November 1924, p. 2)

In 1931 the Panther mine was leased to another operator and eventually closed in 1937. (United States Fuel: Thirty Years, p. 8)

The Panther mine only worked what was called the B seam throughout the 23 years of its operation. After that seam was exhausted in 1937, the Panther mine was closed. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 3)

The Panther mine was closed because United States Fuel Company could obtain coal more economically from their other properties. (Madsen, p. 39)

The Panther mine was closed on April 17, 1937 due to depletion, and the Utah Railway's spur line was removed. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Bear Canyon Mine

(NOTE: First called Cameron, then later known as both Rolapp and Royal; H. H. Rolapp was the name of the owner of the Royal Coal Co.)

Cameron Coal Company was organized by F. N. Cameron for new mine at Castle Gate. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, November 6, 1913, p. 4)

Cameron Coal Company was incorporated on September 26, 1913. The corporation was involuntarily dissolved on April 29, 1965. (Utah corporation, index number 10303, or 10313)

(The Cameron mine was located at the Castle Gate rock formation, and two miles northwest of Frank Cameron's previously developed Panther coal mine, which he had sold to United States Smelting in July 1912.)

The new tipple was completed during early April 1914, having been built by Sam C. Sherrill of Salt Lake City. The coal company owned 360 acres and was producing about five to six hundred tons per day. (Salt Lake Mining Review, April 15, 1914, p. 28, "The Cameron Coal Mines")

The company store and twenty-two new worker's cottages were completed in late July 1914. (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1914, p. 32, "Coal Notes & Personals")

The Cameron Coal Company mine was located near Castle Gate. (Coal Index: News Advocate, June 23, 1916, p. 4)

Frank Cameron first developed the Bear Canyon mine near Castle Gate in 1913. The first mine worker's cottages were completed in August 1914. The town was first named Cameron. (Cunningham: Tours, p. 15)

The mine was located at Cameron, at the Castle Gate rock formation. (USGS: "Castlegate", 62,500 to 1, 1916)

Sometime in October 1914, the Cameron mine was purchased by "the Browning interests" of Ogden. (Salt Lake Mining Review, October 30, 1914, p. 21, "Cameron property recently purchased by the Browning interests")

The Bear Canyon mine was sold to Henry H. Rolapp in November 1919 and the town's name was changed to Rolapp, then later to Royal, after the mine's owner, the Royal Coal Company. In 1919 the Royal Coal Company was sold to the Spring Canyon Coal Company. (Cunningham: Tours, p. 15) (Rolapp was also a District Judge in Ogden, and an officer in the Amalgamated Sugar Co.)

In 1917 Henry H. Rolapp bought the Cameron interests, after which the Royal Coal Company was the owner. In 1930 the property was sold to the Spring Canyon Coal Company. (Madsen, p. 54)

The Royal mine was operated by the Spring Canyon Coal Company from 1930 until the mine was closed in 1962. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 3)

(Stephen Carr, in Ghost Towns, page 72, wrote that the mine was sold to Rolapp in 1917. The Sun-Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, page 3, says 1917. The newspaper also states that the mine was sold to the Spring Canyon company in 1930.)

(RESEARCH: Find a definite date for the sale the Bear canyon mine to both Rolapp [1917 or 1919] and to Spring Canyon Coal [1919 or 1930].)

Production for August 1918 was 12,000 tons. (Salt Lake Mining Review, September 15, 1918, p. 30)

The Bear Canyon mine was referred to as the Royal mine in 1924. (Coal Index: The Sun, February 15, 1924, p. 1)

The Bear canyon mine was referred to as the Royal Coal Company in 1934. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, June 7, 1934, p. 2)

In 1947, the stated capacity of the Royal mine was 1,000 tons per day. (Madsen, p. 54)

In 1951 the Royal mine at Royal was still being operated by the Royal Coal Company. (D&RGW: Traffic Circular 36-E, p. 86)

The town of Royal was deserted by the late 1950s. The site is now the water treatment plant for Price City. (Cunningham: Tours, p. 15)

The mine was closed by the Spring Canyon company in 1962. During its fifty-seven years of operation (1905 to 1962), the mine produced 7,101,000 tons of coal, or about 124,000 tons per year (413 tons per day for a 300 day year). (Sun-Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, p. 3)

New Peerless Mine

Development of the coal lands of the New Peerless mine were started in the mid 1920s, using the modest profits gained by the Peerless Coal Company as it "phased-out" its operations in the Castle Gate A seam in its Spring canyon mine. (Cederlof, pp. 3,12)

The mine at New Peerless was located about a mile north from the Royal mine. The mine was opened in 1930 by the Thompson brothers, sons of Ezra Thompson. owner of the Peerless mine in Spring Canyon. The mine used a thirty degree incline to reach two coal seams, one was 1,900 feet below the surface and the other was 2,300 feet below the surface. The mine opening was located on top of the canyon walls above the tipple, which was located adjacent to the D&RGW mainline. The mine opening was connected to the tipple by use of a tramway. The tipple was reported to have cost about a half million dollars to construct. The new mine was forced to shut down just a year later, in 1931, due to financial conditions in the country. (Madsen, p. 46)

The New Peerless mine was located adjacent to the Royal mine in Price River canyon. The mine itself was a tunnel driven at a thirty degree downward incline into the Castle Gate B (twenty-four feet thick) and D (sixteen to eighteen feet thick) seams on property owned by and leased from Emmett Olsen and Culbert Olsen. At this point, the seams were 1,100 feet below the Price River. Railroad yards were built, served by the D&RGW, and a new McNally-Pittsburgh Steel tipple was built. The New Peerless mine "made gas", and there was an explosion in March 1930 in which five men lost their lives. The mine began operations in about 1929 and continued until June 1931, when the mine was closed. The reason stated was because of the stock market crash of 1929. The tipple was sold to Utah Fuel in 1943 and was incorporated into Utah Fuel's plant at Sunnyside. (Cederlof, pp. 13,14)

(The actual reason for closure of the New Peerless mine may have been the financial stress from paying claims to the miner's families, if the cause for the explosion was found to be negligence on the part of the coal company.)

The Peerless Coal Company remained in operation, leasing its original Spring canyon property to the former superintendent, for a royalty of twenty-five cents per ton of coal mined. The coal mined was taken by mining the pillars and allowing the rooms to collapse. (Cederlof, pp. 13,14)

The original Peerless mine had produced 1,500,000 tons from the A seam between 1917 and 1930, and from 1931-1932. The New Peerless produced 100,000 tons from the Price canyon property between 1929 and 1931. Mining of the low seams at the original Spring canyon mine by the successor company, Peerless Sales Company, from 1932 to 1953 produced 1,900,000 tons. (Cederlof, p. 47)

Hardscrabble Canyon Mine

(NOTE: The Utah Railway shops at Martin are located at the mouth of Hardscrabble canyon.)

The Carbon Fuel Company's mine is located in Hardscrabble canyon. Carbon Fuel is owned by Braztah Corporation, a subsidiary of McCulloch Oil Company. Carbon Fuel started out as the Helper Coal Company, organized by John and George Diamanti in 1916 to mine coal in Hardscrabble canyon. During the 1930s, John Diamanti and his sons, Steve, Jim and Chris organized the Hardscrabble Coal Company and began to mine the low coal in the Castle Gate Sub II seam in Hardscrabble canyon. During World War Two, another son, Lee, joined the family run business. In 1945 the family moved to another location in the canyon. The mine was operated under a lease from Utah Fuel, and in 1950, after Kaiser bought Utah Fuel, the Hardscrabble property passed to Salt Lake City attorney James White in return for his legal work for Kaiser. White later sold the Hardscrabble property to the Diamanti family. The name of the company was changed from Hardscrabble Coal Company to Carbon Fuel Company, after that name became available with the closure of the earlier company's mine at Rains in Spring Canyon. During 1975 the company planned on opening already worked coal seams in Spring canyon, calling the new workings No. 4 and No. 5, conveying the mined coal underground to the Castle Gate coal preparation and stockpiling facilities of McCulloch Oil Company. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, p. 9)

Carbon Fuel Wins Hanford Contract -- Carbon Fuel Co., Helper, Utah, submitted the low bid on supplying 120,000 tons of coal to the Hanford Works of the Atomic Energy Commission in the state of Washington.

The bids for the 1961 fiscal year were received July 6. Carbon Fuel bid on coal shipments from its Castlegate, Utah, mines. The AEC indicated that it plans to purchase 320,000 tons, but no more than 120,000 tons from any one bidder. Plans are to purchase 200,000 tons from other bidders in the labor surplus areas if they agree to meet the price in Carbon Fuel's bid, which was 30,000 Btu's delivered for one cent." (Coal Age, Volume 65, number 8, August 1960, p. 53)

McCulloch Oil Company reached an agreement in June 1974 with American Electric Power Company to furnish AEP's subsidiary Indiana & Michigan Electric Power with 140 million tons of coal. The coal was to be produced by McCulloch's Utah-based coal producing subsidiary, Braztah Corporation. Braztah's coal properties were a combination of several former mining operations in the Helper, Utah area. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 20, 1974)

The coal from Braztah for the AEP contract was to be shipped by two 100-car unit trains per day from a loading station at Helper to barge loading stations on the Mississippi River for delivery to AEP power plants. The first year was to see 800,000 tons shipped (twice the 1973 production), building to 6.5 million tons per year. The operation was projected to have a life cycle of twenty-five years. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 29, 1974)

By September 1975 the Castle Gate loading station was loading a fifty-five car unit train every other day, with two fifty-five car trains being joined into a single 110-car train at Pueblo for the trip to the Mississippi River. By October 1975 the company expected to begin loading a train per day. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 12, 1975)

The combined mining activities of the Castle Gate mine began in 1971, conducted by the Braztah Corporation, which in turn became the Price River Coal Company in 1979, then Castle Gate Coal Company in 1986, Amax Coal Company in 1991, Amax Coal Holding Company in 1996, and Castle Gate Holding Company in 1998. Reclamation started in 1992 in Sowbelly Canyon (the former Spring Canyon Coal Co. in Spring Canyon) and 1993 through 1999 in Hardscrabble Canyon. Phase I bond release was approved for Hardscrabble and Sowbelly in February 2001; Phase II bond release on June 5, 2003. Hardscrabble and Sowbelly Substations and Adit #1 received Phase I bond releases in May 2006. Johnny Pappas received the OSM reclamation award for the Hardscrabble area in 2003. Final Phase III Bond Release was approved on July 15, 2014. This mine has been fully reclaimed. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Permit C0070004)


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