Coal Age

DEC 2012

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Page 38 of 75

foresight energy continued tractor and do not run out of electricity— you don't have to charge the batteries. We've set the roads up so they can all get to where they need to go," he said. Longwall crews are comprised of 10 people: two shearer operators, a jack man, a headgate operator, a boss, two maintenance guys and a headgate operator. There are also two utility guys who take out structure, build monorail, stoppings and whatever needs to be done up on the face. Additionally, Patton has three-five man construction crews who help with ventilation, and various special projects. When necessary, mine management—including Francisco, aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, pour concrete or do whatever it takes. What about supply? "I have one supply man per each shift. He uses a Fletcher tractor and the road is graded so that he can run up to 20 miles per hour with a big load of supplies. When he gets there, he's got a diesel-powered Bobcat and he unloads the supplies in bulk pallet form, takes it to an area, drops it off, brings trash back outside and the process starts all over again. You don't have waste. Who else do you need in a coal mine? I've got my mine manager; I've got a chief electrician; I move my belt on the midnight shift. I don't have anybody sitting outside. I've got two guys, one in the day and one in the evening, who load supplies outside, take care of the yard, and unload the supplies coming in. I've got three AMS operators that monitor the heartbeat of the mine: the gas, the CO, all of the tracking systems and in handing out lights. They also help with the warehouse and outlights. Other than that there's me. I've got one assistant, and she takes care of the reports, and that's all of us," said Francisco. "That dedication and our leanness in manpower are the keys to 25-tons per man hour goal. You can't have people you don't use every day. I don't have a maintenance planner and I don't have a safety director; everybody here is a safety director. I've got 110 of them that go underground every day. Though being low cost doesn't necessarily make you popular, I'd rather be unpopular then have to tell my guys that they don't have a job anymore," said Francisco. Building & Training the New Patton Workforce Though Patton started off with an experienced core crew of 20, they began hiring new crews afterwards so they could be trained "in our methods. We started off December 2012 with 21 guys when we were driving the slope. They became the first crew underground and we added only enough people who we could train. We didn't put on two crews at the same time. We only staffed one section at a time. When the other crews came on, we broke that first crew up and they became mentors to those who followed," said Francisco. The name of the mine is a reflection both of Francisco's love of military history and also his operating ethic. Few military leaders were as capable, courageous, tenacious and respected as World War II's General George S. Patton. And few were as resourceful. "You didn't tell him how to do things. You just told him what you wanted and allowed him to surprise you with his ingenuity. That's how we do things here. Prior to a shift beginning, we talk every day about safety. We make sure that everyone at the mine knows exactly what we're doing today. We call a play every morning and every evening. We say a prayer and then we go underground. Additionally, my management staff and I are on every section every day. I may not get to everyone every day, but one or more of my guys do. We're in constant contact with our crews. We see what they need; see what's giving them trouble; see how we can improve; see what they're doing wrong; see what we're leaving behind; see what we can do to help them with their jobs and then we help them every way we can. We are a team," said Francisco. As Patton continues to staff up, it is trying to attract a few more experienced and inexperienced miners. "You always look for that person who's the all-star running back that you can comfortably hand the ball off to. But I have found that I would rather take inexperienced people with a great work ethic and put them beside a person who's been here for a year and they teach them our way. I've found this type of mentoring to be very rewarding and productive. Though we brought some folks with us and picked up some studs from Indiana and elsewhere, over 85% of our people are from within a five county radius of Patton. They've never had a great job. They've never had insurance, 401Ks, production bonuses, safety bonuses, clean clothes laundered for them every day, fresh hot water every evening and towels provided for them. I want our curtains to be hung properly. I want the mine scooped, cleaned and fully rock dusted— not a wink and a nod. The workforce here has absolutely bought into that operating philosophy. The mine in turn has become a possession of theirs. You're not going to come in and change that mentality, and the workforce won't risk that. Once you establish that culture, you keep the ball rolling and trust that they won't allow anything other than that kind of mentality going forward," said Francisco. Taking Advantage of New Technology From the beginning, Foresight's management put a large emphasis on taking advantage of the latest technology available, particularly technology that allows the mine to operate leaner and more efficiently. "Going back to the PLCs and the VFDs, there's a lot of up front capital that not a lot of people have the appetite for. But that pays huge back end dividends in the way you operate. We have dial up systems where an engineer from our vendor in Price, Utah—Intermountain Electric— the constructor of our longwall electrical boxes—can sit at his computer and pull up my longwall electrical boxes and look at them. He can troubleshoot with us if something goes wrong. Instead of putting a guy on a plane at 4 a.m., he can roll out of bed with his laptop and tell me the issue. He can put my electrician right on the problem. It's the same with the shearer, all of our belt systems and our PLCs. Even more than that, I can check on the amps of my shearer and my head drive from my iPhone. I can turn my belt off, speed it up or slow it down from my couch in Kentucky. It's amazing. That said, if you hit the wrong key, you can shut down the whole mine. But what have we learned and what have we done is to embrace this technology. We continue to work proactively to adapt, adopt and find ways to stay ahead of the curve," said Francisco. While there are plans on the books to eventually build a second longwall and potentially another one after that, all operations are market driven. "But we have built our slope and laid out this mine in such a way that we can move forward with those plans. But with those volumes, we would need to make some surface adjustments, especially if a third longwall came on line. Again, those decisions are all determined by the demand for our coal. We have a tremendous reserve here, coupled with the ability to be the low cost provider of a superior fuel source. If folks want the coal, we'll mine it and ship it to them, and at a better price than our competitors," said Francisco. 37

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