The company said the decision to cut coal continuously was an efficiency decision, first made when the mine went from two longwalls to one and its total active sections were adjusted to three. With the continuous schedule, the mine found its rebuild schedule and capital expenditure plan progressed on a smoother path.
“From a cost standpoint, having a continuous production cycle means no shutdown periods, which translates into continuous production to meet the demands of our customers,” central Appalachia operations vice president Jack Richardson said.
However, operating continuously raises one very important question – how does running equipment without rest (with the exception of the four days holiday per year when the mine is idled) affect availability and maintenance?
Buchanan says both these factors are enhanced.
“We have a routine preventative maintenance schedule and good communication between our employees running the equipment and our maintenance crews,” mine assistant superintendent Danny Atwell said.
“All pieces of equipment are assigned to a particular maintenance foreman and shift. Keeping up a preventative maintenance schedule actually improves availability, enhances safety and consequently positively impacts production and costs since any downtime is minimized.”
Finding the workforce to keep that equipment going 24/7 has not been an issue for Buchanan.
Richardson noted that, even with a tighter labor market that has left some areas of Appalachia stumbling over one another for skilled staff, Buchanan has had no problems with keeping a polished staff on hand.
“Its reputation within Consol and within the industry has been one which has made a Buchanan position a sought-after position,” Richardson said, adding that management worked with employees to accommodate shift-scheduling requests whenever possible.
Skilled management availability is also a given at Buchanan, as the operation promotes from within whenever possible.
“The most valuable resource we have is our workforce,” Richardson said. “They work at a continuous operation and they have always gone above and beyond the call of duty. They are a dedicated workforce with a great deal of commitment to the company and to their co-workers.”