There are not many people who can say they love their work, but Keith Kimble, president of Kimble Cos. Inc., can. “We have fun,” he says. “We enjoy operating the business and [going against] the competition.” Based in Dover, Ohio, Kimble Cos. specializes in coal mining, energy services, solid waste recycling and disposal services, and clay and limestone aggregate products. Kimble’s parents, Floyd and Doris Kimble, founded the firm as the Kimble Coal Co. in 1948, which used hand shovels and a single truck.
Soon, Floyd Kimble grew the company and its staff using a U.S. Army surplus bulldozer and dragline. In the early 1970s, Keith Kimble says, it moved into the production of natural gas and oil, since there were areas in Ohio that were ripe for development.
This provided relief during the natural gas crisis of the 1970s. “We decided to try our hand at it, and started drilling and producing gas and oil, and putting in the pipelines in to connect the wells,” he recalls. “We became a fairly large independent producer of oil and gas.”
Kimble Cos. also began operating recycling and collection centers, and maintained a 250-acre landfill for its local communities. Today, Kimble Cos. offers its services through multiple firms, including Penn Ohio Coal Co., which produces and markets coal.
“Our main [mining] base is small municipal power plants, manufacturers and universities in and around Ohio,” Kimble says. “Our customer base for natural gas is mainly local manufacturers.” These include clients in the brick, tile and aluminum industries.
The Family Business
A longtime veteran of Kimble Cos., Kimble joined his family’s company in 1977 when he turned 18. “That’s how old you have to be to work in a mine,” he explains, adding that his brothers, vice presidents Greg and Eric Kimble, also joined the company at that age.
Keith Kimble says he is deeply proud of his brothers. While Eric Kimble oversees the mining operations, “Greg Kimble is heavily involved with the oil and gas exploration,” Keith Kimble says.
Greg Kimble’s sons, Robert and Chris Kimble, also work at the company, as does Doris Kimble. “She started in business in the ’50s and still works every day in the family business,” Keith Kimble says. Robert and Chris Kimble work as assistant managers of the mining and oil and gas operations.
He adds that the company is proud that its diversity allowed it to survive the economic downturns of different industries. Recently, he says, Kimble Cos.’ involvement in solid waste recycling has grown.
“We’ve grown that business significantly,” Kimble says, adding that the company recycles 100 tons of post-consumer products daily. Additionally, the company recovers methane as the waste decomposes at its landfill.
“We’re producing over 1,000 cubic feet a minute of gas,” he says. “If that
gas were going off into the atmosphere, that’s a 70,000 ton CO2 equivalent in terms of methane per year.”
Methane, Kimble says, is 22 times more detrimental to the atmosphere than C02. “That is a very exciting thing,” he says. “We’re able to generate electricity with that, making enough energy to power several thousand homes.”
As a miner, Kimble says he feels the mining industry has undeservedly been hit with a bad reputation in recent years. “The use of coal in general as a fuel has been getting a lot of bad press as well, from many of the Washington bureaucrats and people who don’t recognize that coal is a necessary, valuable resource,” he says.
“The mining of coal can be done in a way that is good for the environment,” he continues, adding that Kimble Cos. reclaims land after it has finished mining. “We would like to think that we are environmental stewards in the work that we do.”
Often times, he says, Kimble Cos. will be able to reclaim the land so it is just as good as it was before, if not better. For example, the company has proven its ability to reclaim small streams so that they are acceptable to both micro and macro invertebrates that inhabit it, Kimble says.
Kimble Cos. has managed to do this without any long-term negative effects.
“We can add features that enhance the aquatic habitat, with pools, ripples, stream bank improvements, over hangs with roots, and vegetation,” he says. “After mining has occurred, we’ve found that there’s even more animals in the stream than there was to begin with. Because the water quality is improved.”
A Proud Member
Kimble is proud of his past role as chairman of the Ohio Coal Association, based in Columbus, Ohio. The association represents around 10 coal producers and more than 90 associate members, such as mining suppliers and consultants and coal sales agents.
“Our interests are in promoting the use of coal, promoting clean coal technology and the promotion of good mining techniques [that are] socially acceptable,” Kimble says. “The association always tries to work together with state and federal agencies including the EPA and the Ohio Division of Mines and Mineral Resources to try to help with rules and regulations that are both protective for the of the environment, as well as safe for our employees.
“Most of the electricity comes from coal in Ohio,” he says. “Our manufacturing sector is reliant on low-cost energy. We try to promote the use of coal and produce it at the lowest practical cost so our customers can enjoy a competitive advantage as they manufacture products and ship them across the country.”
Looking for Support
As Kimble looks to the future, he says he is uncertain about what lies ahead for his operation.
“We remain concerned about the difficulty in the ability to get permits to mine the coal,” he explains.
“We hope that, as time goes on, the government’s view is tempered a little bit,” he admits.
“Coal is plentiful in Ohio. The future of our manufacturers is [dependant on] utilizing that coal.”
The company intends to do more from the solid waste and recycling side, he notes.
“[We want] to look for more and more ways to utilize the beneficial gas that is produced in the decomposing solid waste,” Kimble says. “We’re also looking for opportunities to use natural gas to power our trucks.”