Arch Coal announced Thursday that it has started developing a new longwall mine in Barbour County.

The mine, which will be called Leer South, will be in the same 200 million ton reserve base that Arch’s current Leer mine, in Taylor County, is in.

Arch officials estimate that, each year, the new mine will produce three million tons of premium, High-Vol A coking coal, for what the company said is an undersupplied global marketplace.

The new mine will be similar in virtually every respect to the existing Leer mine, which company officials said “is widely regarded as one of the lowest-cost, highest-quality and highest-margin coking coal mines in the U.S. coking coal industry.”

Along with the similiarities to the Leer mine, the new mine will also make use of the preparation plant and other facilities at the Sentinel Mine, which is also in Barbour County.  Arch also announced plans to move its longwall equipment from its Mountain Laurel mine in Logan County, to the new Leer South mine and switch Mountain Laurel to a room and pillar operation.  This change will not lead to layoffs at Mountain Laurel, Arch officials said.

Arch President & COO Paul Lang issued this statement on the announcement:

“We view today’s announcement as a tremendously positive development for Arch Coal, surrounding communities, and the state of West Virginia as a whole.  The new Leer South operation will provide exceptional career opportunities for nearly 600 West Virginians directly, and many times that number indirectly, and be a cornerstone of the regional economy for decades to come.  Just as importantly, Arch is committed to ensuring that Leer South achieves the same exemplary, industry-leading standards of mine safety and environmental stewardship for which Arch has long been known.”

Arch expects to spend $360 million to $390 million over the next three years to develop the new mine, with the longwall scheduled to start up in late 2021, according to a news release from Arch.

Arch CEO John Eaves also issued a statement:

“We are excited about this new project, which we view as transformational for Arch Coal and its shareholders,” said .  “With the addition of Leer South, Arch will greatly enhance its portfolio of world-class coking coal assets, and cement our position as the premier global producer of High-Vol A coking coal.  We believe there is significant, unfulfilled global demand for High-Vol A coking coal generally, and our Leer brand specifically, and are already engaged in discussions with leading steel producers around the world that are eager to secure additional volumes of our Leer-brand products.”

The company plans to sell the coal from the Leer South complex into the seaborne coking coal market. Steel market experts expect there to be a growing demand for coking coal over the next decade as the steel sector grows in India and other emerging Asian economies, Arch officials said. 

You can read more about the project here.