Colorado Fuel and Iron: Company Mines

Allen Coal Mine (New Elk Mine)

Location: Las Animas County, Colorado
Years of Operation: 1950-1982
Total Production (tons): 26,055,422

The Allen mine, also known as the New Elk Mine, was one of only two CF&I mines to be opened or acquired by the company later than 1930. By the time it opened in 1951, several small towns had been established along the Purgatoire River in Las Animas County, which meant that there was no need for the company to build a mining camp or operate a company store at this location. The mine operated fairly regularly until the steel mill in Pueblo transitioned to electric arc furnaces in the 1970s, which eliminated the company's need for coking coal, and the mine was closed and sold off in 1982. Wyoming Fuels continued operation of the mine through 1989, and the coal preparation plant, which was built in 1984 to improve product coal specification, continued operating with coal from other nearby mines until 1996. Toronto-based Cline Mining Corp. purchased the mine in 2008 for $16.3 million. It was finally re-opened in 2010 with more than 340 employees working there in 2011, but operations had ceased by 2012 due to a drop in world-wide steel production, and Cline was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in 2014 [1]

The Allen mine was established in 1950, though the planning for the mine began ten years earlier. In 1940, a project for locating potential coal sites was conducted under the name "Apache Project." The coal that was discovered at this location was found to be particularly useful as a coking coal. The Coal seam was found to be five and a half feet to six feet thick, and estimated to contain around eighty million tons of coal. In 1950 CF&I contracted the Utah construction co. to develop the western and eastern portal slope entries. They were also contracted to open up a four-hundred foot ventilation shaft for the mine.

Development of the Mine was completed through the Utah Construction company by August of 1951 when CF&I took over operations of the site. The mine was named Allen after Charles Allen Jr., whom had taken control of CF&I from the Rockefeller interests in 1945. The Allen mine employed around five hundred people when it opened, and was considered one of the most advanced mechanized mining operations. The eastern slope entrance had a forty eight inch wide conveyor belt, which could handle around 700 tons of coal per hour, while t
he western portal operated through a rope hoist and car system. Both of these systems brought the coal to a tipple, where it was loaded into train cars and shipped off to it's final destination, usually the steel mill in Pueblo. 

All mining done prior to 1970 was done by a conventional room and pillar mining system. Coal removal revolved around steel beams, props, roof bolts, plates, and netting. Continuous miners, coal cutters, shuttle cars, and 30" panel belts were utilized. The coal was then loaded into a 48" track gauge bottom dump rail cars pulled by electric locomotive.

In the 1970's two concrete, 12,000-ton, 186 feet high silos were constructed at the eastern portal of the mine, which held enough coal fill almost sixty train cars. There was also a 230-ton underground facility consisting of storage and surge bins, along with a 100-ton rock bin that was used to sort the coal from surrounding debris.

By the early 1970's a proposal was made to start a longwall system using 500-ton hydraulic roof supports and mining 450-foot panels. Initially the system offered a myriad of problems, but eventually provided a substantial portion of production. At each pass of the longwall shearer a 30" cut was made in two stages, one upper and one lower. Approximately 350 tons of coal were mined per pass with the coal removed by chain conveyor to a panel belt and train haulage.

The Allen mine was sold along with the Maxwell mine to the Wyoming Fuel company for a reported forty million dollars on December 16, 1983. By that time 26,055,422 tons of coal had been mined.

[1] Steve Raabe,The Denver Post, "Canadian owner of New Elk coal mine near Trinidad files for bankruptcy," December 15, 2014.


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