In the rural areas of the state of Alabama, located in the depths of the earth, lies some of the highest quality coal and deepest underground coal mines in North America. The men and women of UMWA District 20 mine coal in the massive Blue Creek seam.
This particular vein of coal has a very low sulfur content and a higher BTU rating (heat value) than thermal coal. This high-grade coal, commonly referred to as metallurgical coal, is primarily sold to the export market for use in the global steel industry.
“Some of the highest quality coal in the world is mined here in Alabama,” said International District 20 Vice President Larry Spencer.
“Some of these mines are as deep as 2,100 feet underground and produce approximately 25 to 30 million cubic feet of methane every day, so the safety of our members is always the first thing we must consider before production begins. The Union has and always will put the safety and health of our Members before anything else. Whether you are working underground or you are operating equipment at one of A dozer operator at Warrior MetCoal prepares to move coal on the stockpile. the preparation (prep) plants, safety always comes first.”
Local Union 2245
UMWA Members from Local Union 2245 work for Warrior Met Coal, at the No. 4 Mine, located in Brookwood, Alabama, southwest of Birmingham, near Tuscaloosa. When the men and women arrive for their shift, it begins with their ride in the “cage”, an elevator that takes you on a three-minute trip to the bottom of the mine.
“There are about 300 active members in our local right now,” said Local Union 2245 President Brian Kelly. “We have a great group of men and women at the mine who look out for one another. The health and safety of every Member is our number one priority here.”
Other officers for the Local Union are Vice President Roscoe Boyd, Recording Secretary Anthony Trenter and Financial Secretary Wesley Pierson.
“We are very proud of the members of District 20 in Alabama,” said President Roberts. “Without the hard work of our Members, these companies wouldn’t be able to produce the millions of tons of coal that are shipped and sold each year. They are some of the most efficient and productive miners in the World.”
The coal from the No. 4 Mine is shipped to markets in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America.
Local Union 2427
The Members of Local Union 2427 work at Warrior Met’s Central Shop and Supply House in Brookwood, Alabama. The shop performs maintenance, fabrication and repairs on equipment from the surrounding coal mines owned by Warrior MetCoal.
“From welders to mechanics, we do it all here at the shop,” said Local Union President Curtis Turner. “We have some of the best workers here in our shop, and we all work together to make sure our work is done safely and properly.”
Charles Nash serves as the Recording Secretary for the Local and Johnny Price is the Financial Secretary. The shop repairs and rebuilds underground and surface equipment used at Warrior Met, such as continuous miners, roof bolters, shuttle cars, dozers, graders and drills. If the equipment is operated on mine property, the men and women of Local 2245 repair it.
“Without some of the most technically advanced equipment in the industry, these mines and the prep plants simply would not be competitive. Our members working at Central Shop and Supply are the ones that keep everything up and running at the plants and underground,” said International District 20 Vice President Larry Spencer. “They do a great job, and we appreciate the expertise they provide on some of the most advanced machinery used in the industry.”
Local Union 2368
The preparation plants are responsible for handling and washing the coal and preparing it for the transportation to the market. During this process, coal is cleaned of rock and debris, and then is crushed and sorted into different sizes. After the extensive cleaning process, the coal is loaded into trucks and/or rail cars for ground transportation or barges for the overseas market.
The Warrior Met Coal No. 5 Prep Plant employs 23 UMWA Members. Members’ occupations span from equipment operators, engineers, loaders, handlers to control room operators. They handle every ton of coal that is mined, transported and sold. The sampling, crushing and washing of the coal done at a prep plant is a very precise operation.
“People who have never been around the coal industry don’t understand how coal is mined or how a preparation plant works,” said President Roberts. “The prep plants are an extremely important part of the process that allows coal to be sized and blended to meet the specific needs of the customers.”
Officers of Local Union 2368 are President Mike Jordan, Recording Secretary Jerrod Knox and Financial Secretary Clarence Garrison. Local Union 2397 Warrior Met Coal’s No. 7 Preparation Plant employs Members of Local Union 2397.
“We all work together here at the plant to make sure everything runs safely,” said Local Union President Carl White. “Everyone looks out for one another while on the job. We know if we ever have a problem, the District and International Union is there for us, just like I’m here for all of our members at the prep plant.”
Other officers for Local Union 2397 include Vice President Johnny Murphy, Recording Secretary David Bittle and Financial Secretary David Greek. Members employed at Warrior Met Coal’s, No. 7 Mine in Brookwood, Alabama, make-up the bulk of Local Union 2397’s Membership.
The North portal facility at the No. 7 Mine opened in 2018. As production advanced further away from the old portal it became more time consuming for miners entering the northern sections of the mine. The construction of the new portal was essential to the mine’s efficient operation. The portal was designed to eliminate five miles of underground travel time each way during miners’ shifts.
Local Union 8982
“The membership working in the mines and preparation plants in Alabama do a great job,” said Region II Director Gary Trout.
“We are so proud of the hard work they do every day, whether they are running a shuttle car, bolter or longwall underground or operating a bulldozer or rock truck on the surface, they are a vital part of the overall. No one does it better or safer than UMWA Members.”
Local Union 1948
Peabody’s Shoal Creek Preparation Plant employs Members of Local Union 1948 and is responsible for the cleaning and prepping of the coal from the Shoal Creek Mine in Adger, Alabama. Like all other prep plants, the coal coming into the Shoal Creek plant is cleaned, crushed and sorted, but the loading process is unique because all of the coal that is processed by Local 1948 Members is loaded directly onto barges that transportit to the Port of Mobile. From there it is loaded on ships for overseas markets. The barge loading facility is a massive operation located on the bank of the Warrior River. The Shoal Creek Mine was developed in 1994 and acquired by Peabody in 2018. The Shoal Creek Mine, like the other mines in the area, uses the longwall system to mine the high quality coal from the Blue Creek coal seam. Longwall machines shear coal across more than a 1,000-foot-long face, producing thousands of tons of coal a shift. As the longwall advances, the roof behind the longwall shields weakens and caves. “Working on a longwall is a very unique experience,” said District 20 Representative James Blankenship. “It’s difficult for anyone who hasn’t experienced this process to understand how it really works. It’s hard for them to imagine that you’re removing the coal from the face, sending it outside to the prep plant and then allowing the roof where you were just walking to cave in behind the shields. It’s certainly not a normal day at the office for most folks.” Local Union 1948 officers are President Donny Black, Recording Secretary Marty Benson and Financial Secretary Morris Studdard, Jr. “We are so blessed to have such great officers in our locals,” said International District 20 Vice President Larry Spencer. “We appreciate all the hard work, time and dedication they put into doing their job as officers.”
Local Union 2133
Members of Local Union 2133 work at the Oak Grove Mine, located just off of Taylors Ferry Road in Bessemer, Alabama.
The officers of Local Union 2133 are President William Goodwin, Recording Secretary Derrick Perry and Financial Secretary Mary Ellis-Smoot.
“These are tough and sometimes very dangerous jobs, but the men and women of District 20 are skilled and dedicated Union miners. They truly are the best people you could ever work with. I’m proud to call them my Brothers and Sisters,” said International District 20 Vice President Larry Spencer.
Safety Always Comes First
“Whether you are an underground miner in the United States or Canada, a correctional officer in Pennsylvania, an electrician or welder in West Virginia or whatever your profession may be in whatever part of North America you work, the safety of UMWA Members always comes first,” said Secretary-Treasurer Allen.
“The Union is made up of such a diversified membership. There are so many talented, hard-working professions and they deserve to work in a safe and healthy environment. That is what the United Mine Workers is about. Safety is always the first concern of the UMWA at every level of the Institution.”
“Mining has always been a very dangerous occupation. We all remember the 13 miners who lost their lives in the JWR #5 disaster in Brookwood, Alabama, on September 23, 2001,” said President Roberts.
“The families of those 13 miners never expected their loved ones to leave for work and never return home. A memorial service is held each year in remembrance of the miners who were lost on that day. We must always remember that the most important thing to come out of the mine is the miner. When it comes to health and safety, we must all remain ever vigilant.”