Title: “On-the-Rocks” Field Trip: West Elk Coal Mine Near Paonia, Colorado
Trip Leader: Wendell Koontz, Mine Geologist
Date: July 14, 2001
Publication: The Outcrop, May/June 2001, p. 11
The West Elk Mine, owned by Arch Coal Inc., and operated by Mountain Coal Company, is a 7 million tons-per-year coal mine utilizing state of the art mining techniques. The mine is located on the Western Slope of Colorado 12 miles east of Paonia on Hwy 133.
The West Elk Mine has been developed in the coal seams of Cretaceous Mesaverde Formation in the far southeastern tip of the Piceance Basin. Numerous structural and geologic features have been encountered within the mine including sedimentary dikes, rock partings, compactional faults, and tectonic faults. The mine tour will examine the geology of the mine, visit continuous-miner development and long-wall mining sections, and review the degasification and exploration activities associated with coal mining.
Directions: from Grand Junction travel 30 miles south on Hwy 50 to Delta. Turn east on Hwy 133/92 towards Paonia approximately 31 miles from Delta. At Hotchkiss Hwy 92 splits to the south; remain on Hwy 133. The group may overnight in Paonia or Hotchkiss. There is a back way from Glenwood Springs on Hwy 133 through Carbondale, Redstone, and over McClure Pass. A good trip in July!
Place and Time: We meet at the Breakfast Shop nevi to the Redwood Arms in Paonia on Saturday at 6:30 am. We will caravan to the mine from the restaurant. Participants are responsible for their own motel reservations. There is a list of motels and phone numbers below.
6:30-8:00 a.m. Breakfast and travel to the mine
8:00-9:00 a.m. Intro at West Elk
9:00-10:00 a.m. Safety training
10:00-4:00 p.m. Mine tour. Bring a lunch and water. We’ll eat underground
4:00-5:00 p.m. Clean up and Q & A
Equipment: The mine can provide all necessary safety equipment: hard hats, safety glasses, SCSR, coveralls, and steel-toed boots. I recommend people bring their own hard hats, glasses, gloves, coveralls, and boots if they require specialized gear or are of non-typical size. I will conduct all of the appropriate training on site. Of course rock hammers and notebooks are encouraged. Cameras are discouraged underground. I will provide a handout with mine maps.
Physical Requirements: We be walking a fair amount in the mine at an elevation of 6100 to 6400 ft. The mine entries are generally 9.5 ft high and 18 ft wide with a semi-rough floor. Transportation into the mine is provided by modified Dodge truck mantrips. Participants should be in generally good condition and capable of some moderate exertion.