Following the company’s annual shareholders meeting held late last week at the Wynfry Hotel in Birmingham, spokesman Paul Blalock told the Birmingham News that permitting for the $US800 million project is moving forward as planned.
However, he noted, government and company director approvals have not yet been received.
Should permitting and planning continue to progress positively and the project receive all approvals, he told the paper Blue Creek crews could begin “moving dirt” for development as soon as the third quarter.
When operational, the Tuscaloosa operation is projected to produce between 2.5 and 3.5 million tons of met coal annually.
With a lifespan estimated at 45 years, Blalock said hundreds of workers could be employed “for decades” at one of the biggest projects on the roster anywhere in the US.
Blalock told the local news outlet that it would take about six years to reach prime production levels, but that tax incentives passed by the state of Alabama in March would help defer the $800 million price tag that will be paid out over a four-year period.
“It'll have a big price tag, but the tax incentives will help,” he told the Birmingham News.
Blalock did not respond to an ILN request for information about the timeline, equipment needs or technological plans for Blue Creek by press time.
Walter continues on growth path
During the annual meeting, Walter officials confirmed to shareholders that it plans to more than double its coal production, hitting 20 million metric tons by 2020.
It appears to already be well on its way. The producer’s revenue has increased from $1 billion in 2009 to $2.6 billion last year.
Net coal sales, meanwhile, which were 5.5Mmt in 2009, are expected to range between 11.5 and 15Mmt this year. Production for the first quarter alone will fall between 2.8 and 2.9Mmt.
Walter Energy has three business arms, including underground mining, surface mining and coke.
Its two largest active operations are the underground metallurgical operations No.7 and No.4 in central Alabama.
Following its takeover of Western Coal last year, its operations in the US, Canada and the UK employ a total of 4400 workers.