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Arch begins longwall operations at Leer mine

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Arch Coal has begun operating its longwall mining system at the Leer mine near Grafton, a milestone toward ramping up production in 2014.

Arch expects the Leer mine to produce more than 3 million tons of metallurgical coal a year for the domestic and international steelmaking markets.

"With the start-up of the longwall, the Leer mine is poised to become a world-class supplier of metallurgical coal and a cornerstone of Arch's Appalachian operations for many years to come," John W. Eaves, Arch's president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement. "We applaud the great work of the Leer team in completing this significant step, and we look forward to a safe, productive and profitable future for this important new mine."

Arch has invested more than $400 million to develop the Leer mine. The mine has a work force of about 400 people. Arch expects the mine to have a competitive cost structure once it scales up to full production.

"Our investment in the Leer mine underscores our commitment to West Virginia and our focus on producing the highest quality metallurgical coals to meet the needs of global steelmakers," Eaves said. "With the addition of Leer, we are advancing our long-term, strategic objective of increasing our penetration into domestic and seaborne coking coal markets."

Arch now operates six metallurgical and PCI-grade mines in Appalachia, including four in West Virginia. Arch also has undeveloped metallurgical coal reserves in the region that can support additional mine development in the years ahead.