Room-and-pillar coal mining equipment

Paul Boughton

The first full fleet of Cat branded room-and-pillar coal mining equipment is being installed by Armstrong Coal in conjunction with the opening of its new underground mine at Lewis Creek in Kentucky. The mining company, a subsidiary of Armstrong Energy, purchased 24 machines from Cat dealer Whayne Supply following the dealership’s acquisition of the former Bucyrus distribution and product support business.   

“We’re all looking forward to being the first underground coal mine in the world with all Cat equipment,” said Rick Craig, Armstrong Coal’s vice president for operations. “We also look forward to continuing our relationship with Caterpillar and solidifying that commitment.”

The fleet, which features four Cat CM235 Continuous Miners supported with face haulers, roof bolters, scoops and feeder breakers, began operating at Lewis Creek in late September. It will be supported by Whayne Supply locations in the area.[Page Break]

“Caterpillar has a reputation for being a leader in the industry; so when they went underground, we thought it would be a good thing to be part of,” said Rickie Philips, Lewis Creek mine’s underground mine superintendent. “We know that Caterpillar will back us all the way. They have a stake in this as much as we do.”

Lewis Creek mines the 50-inch-thick (1.27-meter-thick) West Kentucky No. 9 Seam. Targeted sales of clean coal from the mine are 800,000 to 900,000 tons (726,000 to 816,000 tonnes) annually.  

While this is Armstrong’s first purchase of Cat underground equipment, the company is a long-time Whayne partner. Lewis Creek is also home to a surface coal mine that uses Cat equipment, including rigid-frame mining trucks and articulated trucks. Armstrong has multiple surface mines throughout the region, all of which use Cat equipment supported by Whayne Supply.[Page Break]

According to Monty Boyd, Whayne Supply president and CEO, that relationship is what gave Armstrong the confidence to make this decision. “We sold 80 pieces of surface mining equipment to Armstrong as they started their business in Western Kentucky,” said Boyd. “That’s quite a trusting venture, and I believe they’re putting that same type of trust in us by taking the first full fleet of Cat underground equipment.”

In addition to being one of its first underground equipment customers, Armstrong outsourced the maintenance of its Cat equipment through a formal Maintenance and Repair Contract (MARC) with Whayne. In preparation for the addition of the full line of Cat underground products, Whayne and their sister dealership, Walker Machinery, both owned by Boyd, are forming a new sales and support division called Whayne-Walker Underground. The new division officially started operating November 1 and will be staffed by Whayne employees and former Caterpillar and Bucyrus sales and support staff well versed in the new products.

The new equipment is being put into service as it arrives, with the final delivery expected to take place in early 2013.

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