Company: News & Events

Rich Sivils named 2022 Reclamationist of the Year by American Society for Reclamation Sciences

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HEALY, AK – Usibelli Coal Mine is proud to announce that Rich Sivils has earned the prestigious American Society of Reclamation Sciences (ASRS) 2022 Reclamationist of the Year Award.

According to the award criteria, this award is intended for "individuals demonstrating outstanding accomplishments in the practical application or evaluation of reclamation technology." Sivils has served as Usibelli's reclamation engineer since 2013 and is responsible for planning and executing the mine's reclamation efforts.

"We are very proud of Rich and our reclamation program's accomplishments," stated Alan Renshaw, Usibelli's general manager. "When Rich arrived at Usibelli nearly ten years ago, he brought a fresh perspective and quickly applied his knowledge in reclamation practices to help us advance numerous projects at the mine," he added.

Usibelli's reclamation program encompasses a rigorous process that includes backfilling, re-grading, seeding, fertilizing, and planting native trees and shrubs. For many years, Usibelli has partnered with botanists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and scientists within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to create suitable seed mixes and planting techniques. The primary goal of Usibelli's reclamation program is to restore wildlife habitats. Animals that frequent the area are bears, moose, caribou, lynx, wolves, snowshoe hare, and coyotes.

According to state and federal law, coal mine operators must restore mined land to its approximate original contour, and companies are required to post a bond to ensure that the mined land will be reclaimed. "Achieving Phase III bond release by the State of Alaska takes decades," explained Sivils. "The regulators at DNR are dedicated and thorough in ensuring operators follow law and regulation," he added.

In 2021, Usibelli attained Phase III bond release for 367 acres by successfully showing the diversity of vegetation coverage for the entire area. "Usibelli's Poker Flats mining area is only the second area in Alaska to be approved for Phase III bond release. The first area was within Usibelli's Gold Run Pass mine in 2011," explained Joe Usibelli Jr., president of Usibelli Coal Mine.

"It's an honor to receive this award from my peers at ASRS. I am fortunate to work with several hard-working individuals who have helped make our reclamation plan so successful," said Sivils. "While it takes decades to achieve Phase III bond release, several reclamation engineers before me played an integral role in our reclamation program today," he said. "It has been a highlight of my career to see through the completion of such a milestone," he added.

Usibelli Coal Mine is Alaska's only operating coal mine, located approximately 11 miles north of the entrance of Denali National Park. Started in 1943 by Emil Usibelli, Usibelli Coal Mine is still family-owned and operated. Usibelli began reclaiming previously mined land even before the state or federal governments required it. "My grandfather, Emil, and my father, Joe, established the precedent of restoring Alaska to how we found it – wild and beautiful. Environmental stewardship is one of our core values. I am very proud of Rich and our reclamation team for carrying on these traditions and receiving the ASRS Award," said Usibelli Jr.

For more information, contact Rich Sivils at rsivils@usibelli.com.


Usibelli Coal Mine achieves 2 years with zero lost time accidents

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Healy, AK – On Wednesday, January 30, Usibelli Coal Mine (UCM) achieved two years of operations without a single lost time accident (LTA), a job-related injury that results in time away from work. UCM’s safety program, Everyday Safety—At Work. At Home. At Play., combined with the CORE Safety framework of the National Mining Association lays the foundation to make safety a core value for all mine employees. 

“The number one priority at UCM is safety – every day, and in everything we do,” said UCM president and CEO, Joe Usibelli Jr. “We have 98 employees who have worked safely for more than 372,000 hours. That’s a remarkable achievement, and I am very proud of our team.”

In addition to keeping employees safe on the job, UCM promotes a safety culture that extends beyond the workplace. “Our concern for employee health, safety and welfare goes beyond our mining operations. If someone gets hurt at home, on the road, or participating in a recreational activity, we feel it at the mine and in the community too,” said Usibelli.       

UCM operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with heavy equipment in a remote area of Alaska. “When you consider the harsh environment that our miners operate in—wind, rain, snow, and 40 below—our employees have to be extremely diligent to work safely,” said Matt Nelson, UCM human resources and safety director. In an effort to prevent injuries, UCM responds to safety suggestions through the use of hazard recognition cards, holds regular safety meetings and trainings, promotes safe practices throughout all areas of the mine site and encourages employees to maintain clean and organized workspaces.

The mine’s all-time safety record was set in 2006 at 797 days without a lost time accident. “We’ve set our sights on surpassing that number, because there is no higher priority than protecting our employees and their families,” Usibelli said.

About Usibelli Coal Mine
Founded in 1943 by Emil Usibelli, Usibelli Coal Mine is located near the town of Healy and is 115 miles south of Fairbanks and 250 miles north of Anchorage adjacent to the Parks Highway and Alaska Railroad. UCM currently has a workforce of 98 employees, and operates year-round. Mine production has grown from 10,000 tons in 1943 to approximately 1-million tons of coal per year. Currently the only operational coal mine in Alaska, UCM is supported by the most modern mining equipment and state-of-the-art engineering. Today, UCM supplies coal to five Interior Alaska power plants and over the years has exported coal to Chile, South Korea, Japan and several other Pacific Rim destinations. For more information, please visit www.usibelli.com.

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For more information, contact Lisa Herbert, vice president of public relations at 907-347-8006 (cell) or lisa@usibelli.com.