Southern Coal Corp.

When a business model works, you stay with it. That is essentially the motto of the Justice family, the leaders of Southern Coal Corp., which was launched in 2009. Their main priority is to focus on the metallurgical market and then pulverized carbon injection (PCI), selling remaining production into the steam market. It is among the largest privately held metallurgical coal producers in the country and has a large permitted reserve.

The Justice family is well known in Appalachia’s metallurgical coal industry, as its experience in coal mining extends back for generations. The family has seen rapid expansion of its coal holdings since a 2009 sale of Bluestone Coal to Mechel OAO. Recent purchases include a December 2010 deal to buy National Coal and its assets in Tennessee.

Wholly owned by the Justice family and headquartered in Beckley, W.V., Southern Coal Corp. is the parent company of various coal assets. These include A&G Coal Corp., Sequoia Energy LLC, Premium Coal Co. Inc. and Tams Management Inc.

The means to impress
As an organization, Southern Coal has approximately 615 million tons of high-volume metallurgical, PCI and steam coal reserves and resources in the Appalachia region. About 51 percent of its total coal reserves and resources are made up of metallurgical and PCI coal.

All mining operations are run from locally based headquarters, and engineering and accounting staffs are also located at the head office for each operation. Each has several operating mines, preparation plants and train load-out facilities. The mining techniques employed by the company include underground, surface, highwall and auger mining.

During the past 18 months, Southern Coal’s investments in developing production capabilities and funding infrastructure improvements have totaled $122.9 million. Its coal production has increased at each operation and was projected to reach 5.9 million tons in 2010 and 8.2 million tons in 2011.

Southern Coal also says it has a deep commitment to the safety, health and well being of its employees and does all it can to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, and to remain compliant with all applicable safety laws. It subscribes to the requirements and principles of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Each Southern Coal operation has a safety director and support personnel who make safety a priority.

Pieces of the portfolio
Formed in 1990, A&G Coal is among the largest independent coal producers in Virginia. Its 12 mining operations produce mostly metallurgical coal along with some steam coal. They are in a more than 25,000-acre reserve in the counties of Lee, Wise and Dickinson in Virginia and Harlan County in Kentucky. It has two preparation plants and a train loadout facility. In the last few years, it has moved away from all-surface, all-steam production in favor of surface mining and underground production.

Premium Coal of Briceville, Tenn., has mine locations in Tennessee’s Anderson and Campbell counties. Products include high-volatile metallurgical, steam and stoker. It employs underground, surface and highwall miner mining methods and has a prep plant capacity of 400 tons per hour. Purchased in September 2008, it has 250 million tons of reserves, with 30 million tons of reserves permitted.

Sequoia Energy of Harlan, Ky., also produces high-volatile metallurgical, steam and stoker and uses underground, surface and highwall miner mining methods. It has a prep plant capacity of 750 tons per hour. The family acquired Sequoia in May 2007, which was solely deep mining at the time. Infrastructure and coal quality were seen as reasons to acquire Sequoia, and investments in a refuse conveyor and belt presses have solved refuse-handling issues.

As for Bledsoe, Tenn.-based Infinity Energy, it has mine locations in Harlan and Leslie, Ky. Its products include high-volatile steam, and it uses underground, surface and highwall miner mining methods. Infinity Energy has a prep plant capacity of 400 tons per hour. Acquired in April 2008, Infinity has since increased its use of surface mining assets.

Meanwhile, Tams Management is a metallurgical coal operation that was formed in 2010. A single surface mining operation across a 5,000-acre reserve in Raleigh County, W.Va., it has a reserve of 7.6 million tons and produces mostly low- volume metallurgical coal.

Adding on
To expand its capabilities, Southern Coal purchased a Hitachi 3600 and six haul trucks to support A&G’s work as well as a heavy-media cyclone to help with increased deep mine production. In addition, the company purchased Baden Reclamation, which operated a surface mine roughly 20 miles from A&G.

To support operations in Tennessee, Southern Coal purchased property from National Coal to increase output. In April 2010, Ranger Energy Investments, owned by the Justic family, purchased assets in Eastern Tennessee from National Coal for $10 million. Acquiring the National Coal assets meant Southern Coal could increase Tennessee production and move a steam contract from A&G to Tennessee.

Earlier this year, the Justice family acquired the primary assets of bankrupt coal producer GTM Energy Partners LLC, an Alabama-based company.