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Mining People Magazine

by Debra McCown Thomas


he CoalProTec trade show and conference, originally

scheduled in April, has been moved to November

due to concerns about the spread of the Covid-19

coronavirus. This year’s event will now be held Nov.

9-10 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston, West

Virginia., said Mel Laurila, executive director of the

Coal Preparation Society of America, which hosts

the biennial event.

“We think we’re giving it enough time, and we’re far enough

away from MINExpo and [other events] that we’re not

conflicting,” he said, adding that the new location was chosen

over the convention center to reflect a smaller anticipated size

of the event due to the postponement.

Laurila said the organization is also planning to work with the

Midwest Coal Preparation Society, which puts on a coal show

in the spring of odd years, to do something in conjunction with

its 2021 event in Evansville, Indiana.

“We have to continue to hold the conference and exhibit because

we think it’s an important meeting in the industry where people,

specifically in coal preparation, can get together,” he said. “We

hope that the folks who were planning on coming to Lexington

in April will show up in November.”

One important aspect of the biennial conference is a

networking event, which typically brings people who work in

coal preparation across the country together in one room. This

reception is now scheduled for Monday, Nov. 9.

The program in November is expected to be similar to what

was initially planned for April, with a lot of information for

coal producers that are trying to compete in current market

conditions. Updated information about the event will eventually

be available at

Some workshops that were planned for the April conference

are not scheduled for November and may be held in Evansville

next spring; otherwise, the technical program is to remain intact.

“We’ve got a keynote session…where we have James

McCaffrey of Consol Energy. He’s the chief commercial officer,

and he’s going to talk about the coal industry in general and

where he sees it going, how

the competitive arena between

natural gas and coal is going to

go over the next few years, and

the whole worldwide business

of trading coal, and what kind

of headwinds we’re going to

face on that.”

According to a preliminary

agenda, “Thirteen technical



the latest developments in

advanced coal preparation

practices and techniques, the

design and operation of slurry

impoundments, and advances

CoalProTec Show Rescheduled for November

in dry coal upgrading techniques.”

One reality for the industry, Laurila said, is that there will be

more coal-fired power plant closures this decade – but that

doesn’t mean coal will become insignificant.

“As a fuel for power generation, coal is going to continue to

decrease. Some estimates are showing it’s already been cut in

half in the last decade… and in the next decade, my best guess

from what I’ve read is it will be cut in half again. But it’s still a

significant industry, and it will still be a part of the energy mix,”

he said.

“And it’s still worth being involved in. You can still make money

in coal, but you’re going to have to be smart about it, and that’s

one of the reasons why we’re putting on this conference.”

At the present time, Laurila said, being competitive in coal

means relying on technology to improve the coal preparation

process, since that’s where final control over the product takes


“You’re going to have to make sure that you’re providing the

best quality product, whether it’s thermal coal or particularly

metallurgical coal, for your customer, and that’s going to require

instrumentation, it’s going to require smart practices, and

maybe things that operators weren’t always so careful about in

the past,” he said.

“And you know coal preparation plays a huge role in that

because what comes off that clean coal belt determines how

well you’re able to sell that customer or keep that customer.”

Laurila expressed hope about technologies that will impact the

coal industry. In terms of electricity, he said the development

of high-efficiency, low-emission power plants which capture and

sequester their carbon dioxide could mean new coal-fired power

plants are built in the future. Relatively small-scale, modular

power plants may also become more prevalent in the future.

In terms of other technologies, he pointed to the use of coal

in making carbon fibers and the production of rare earth

elements as a byproduct of coal processing as potential future

sources of revenue. In the case of rare earth elements, he said,

both the processing waste

stream and existing waste

can be processed, adding a

revenue stream that adds to

profitability at a plant site.

“Coal’s not going anywhere

for a long time, and yes [in

the foreseeable future] the

industry will continue to

shrink,” Laurila said, but it

will be at a slower pace than

it has in the past, and there

will always be a need for

technology improvement –

and that’s why we will still be


2016 CoalProTec