Patriot Coal’s West Virginia mine shut on MSHA order

By Antonita Madonna Devotta

BANGALORE, May 14 (BestGrowthStock) – A West Virginia mine operated
by Patriot Coal Corp (PCX.N: ) facing ventilation problems was
shut down by the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration
(MSHA), a U.S. Labor Department spokesman said.

Shares of the company fell as much as 8 percent on Friday.

“On Tuesday, MSHA issued an order closing the Harris No. 1
mine in Boone County, West Virginia,” the spokesman said. “The
order was issued because the mine’s ventilation system was not
functioning as designed.”

The mine, which produces steelmaking coal, was facing a
problem of air reversal in its bleeder system and had not been
reopened as of Friday morning, he added.

Patriot did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Leslie Fitzwater, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Office
of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, said the company had
been warned earlier about low oxygen levels in parts of the
mine during a routine MSHA investigation, but the problem had
not fixed when MSHA officials returned to the mine on Tuesday.

Fitzwater also said officials with the state agency expect
the mine to be reopened early next week.

The agency is cracking down on mines with faulty working
conditions after an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in
West Virginia operated by Massey Energy Co (MEE.N: ) killed 29
miners in April, the worst U.S. mine disaster in a quarter
century.

The Harris No. 1 mine produced about 115,000 tons of coal
in the first quarter of 2010, and about 620,000 tons in 2009.
In earlier years the mine had reported production of up to 4
million tons of coal.

“Although the volumes from Harris are not large, the mine
produces higher-quality met coal, so a longer shutdown would be
expected to affect Patriot’s profitability,” BMO Capital
Markets analyst Meredith Bandy said in a note.

The company recently announced a 1.5 million ton swing to
metallurgical coal from thermal coal to cash in on surging
demand in Asian countries.

Patriot also said it is currently finalizing plans to open
its Black Oak metallurgical mine and has “advanced plans” for
several additional metallurgical coal projects.

Shares of the company were trading down 6 percent at $17.84
Friday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange, after falling
to $17.46 earlier in the session. The broader Dow Jones US Coal
Index (.DJUSCL: ) was down 4 percent.

Stock Market Today
(Reporting by Antonita Madonna Devotta; Editing by
Unnikrishnan Nair)

Patriot Coal’s West Virginia mine shut on MSHA order