Contour Highwall Mining LLC

Dave Bundy entered the coal mining business in 1985 with $100,000 in capital and formed Bundy Auger Mining in Pennsylvania with a single auger machine he operated alongside his only two employees. Since then, he’s expanded to a multimillion-dollar full-service mining operation encompassing 14 affiliate companies.

Contour Highwall Mining LLC, the company Bundy formed in 2000 to complement the operations of his auger business Bundy Auger Mining, continues to expand. Contour Highwall Mining this year will add three additional highwall mining machines to its fleet of five highwall miners and assume ownership of a coal prep plant in Millard, Ky., says Bundy, CEO and partner.

“What we’re seeing is an increased export demand with steam coal, which is keeping the market up,” he adds. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the market, but have ridden it out by supplying high-quality, inexpensive coal.”

The company operates five highwall miners in West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky. It operates both on land it leases in Virgie, Ky., as well as on a contract basis for coal producers Harold Keene Coal Company, Maple Coal, Revelation Coal and Aslan Mining. Each one of the highwall miners is capable of producing up to 50,000 tons of coal a month. In 2001 Contour averaged 100,000 tons a month with their first highwall miner.

Three additional highwall mining machines – at a cost of $7 plus million each – will go into operation by the end of the year. The 550-tph prep plant, in Millard, Ky., will be located between two of Contour’s existing mining sites, which will feed it coal for processing. The plant is located on a CSX rail line, giving the company additional transportation capabilities, Bundy adds.

Both Contour Highwall Mining LLC and Bundy Auger Mining LLC are owned by West Virginia-based Pallas Holdings. Other affiliated companies include Viking Acquisitions LLC, which leases a 4,500-acre surface mine in Pike County, Ky.; Bundy Transport LLC, which provides coal hauling equipment and transportation support for Contour’s operations; and Highwall Mining Solutions and Repair, a fabrication and machine shop that supports the Highwall Mining company.

Making it Happen
The heart of Contour’s operations is a talented and experienced staff. The company staffs two of its highwall mining machines seven days a week, with the other three manned five days a week. Four-man crews consisting of an operator, ground person, fork loader and coal loader work 12-hour shifts.

“I feel we have the best people in the industry,” Bundy says. “They’ve basically accepted ownership right alongside of me, and I’ve worked side-by-side with many of them for several years; they’re like family.”

Bundy says his company’s philosophy is simple. “I always like to tell our people to `make it happen safely,’” he says. “I like to have people go home at night thinking they’ve accomplished something at work that day.”

Contour staff members have applied their experience in highwall mining to help improve the machines. Several recommendations made by Contour staff to manufacturer Superior Highwall Miners have been incorporated into the machines.

“The best way to make a piece of equipment better is to have first worked with it,” Bundy says. “We’ve helped make major changes to these machines that help them go deeper, work on a narrow bench and harvest cleaner coal.”

Staying Safe
Bundy says he is particularly proud of Contour’s safety record. “We have an impeccable safety record,” he adds. “We stress to our people that it’s important to come home to your family every night. We can’t afford – and they can’t afford – to have accidents caused by reckless behavior.”

Contour encourages safety through an internal program that both trains and offers incentives for safe workplace behaviors. The company’s emphasis on safety earned it Sentinels of Safety awards from the U.S. Department of Labor from 2004 through 2009, as well as certificates of honor from the state of West Virginia for each of those years.

The Sentinels of Safety program recognizes outstanding safety records “to stimulate greater interest in safety and to encourage development of more effective accident prevention programs among the nation’s mineral extractive industries,” the Department of Labor says.