Knight Hawk Coal's History
The mid-1990s found the once-thriving Illinois coal industry reduced to a shadow of itself. The large coal companies had all but pulled up stakes and the demand for coal was in decline. Four partners – Steve Carter, F.D. Robertson, James Bunn and James Bunn, Jr., however, understood there were still pockets of need for southern Illinois’ high-quality, low chlorine coal. In 1998, Knight Hawk Coal, LLC, a family-owned coal mining company, was created to meet those needs.
In the early days Knight Hawk produced coal exclusively by surface mining. It opened its first underground mine in 2006. It currently has a mix of five surface, two underground and two carbon recovery operations.
Also in 2006, Knight Hawk began a partnership with Arch Coal. What started as a 1/3rd partnership has matured to where Arch Coal holds a 49 percent interest in the company. In return for the increased ownership, Knight Hawk was able to secure its long term future through the addition of vast reserves adjacent to its Prairie Eagle operation. The company remains controlled by the founding families with the Carter family owning 25 ½ percent and the Bunn and Robertson families controlling an equal share.
One of Knight Hawk’s competitive advantages is its dock, Lone Eagle, on the Mississippi River (MM#105 UMR) where 80 percent of the coal is shipped. The Mighty Mississippi allows Knight Hawk to competitively access markets throughout the Midwest and Southeast United States, as well as international opportunities through the Gulf Coast. In support of Lone Eagle Dock, Knight Hawk contracts an independent truck fleet as well as the ability to load rail cars on the Canadian National in a limited fashion. With Prairie Eagle’s proximity to both the Canadian National and Union Pacific rail lines, the loading of unit trains on either or both lines is a future possibility.
Because of its family roots, Knight Hawk has a strong sense of responsibility to the community. The Carters, like the majority of their employees, live in towns and neighborhoods near where they mine. Knight Hawk also prides itself on hiring of extended family members of employees which along with the entrepreneurial spirit provides a family atmosphere throughout the workplace and the community. This family spirit fosters a close relationship to the community and empowers everyone involved with Knight Hawk to contribute to the surrounding communities. Responsibility to the community and environment is paramount in our daily lives since this is where we all live.
From a crew of 17 people turning a fallow crop field into a coal mine in 1998, to employing nearly 400 people along with an equal amount of contractors, Knight Hawk has seen steady and controlled growth to where it produces five million tons of coal annually.
From the partners to the employees, each understands that they are building a special company. That is why their motto is “Capture the Energy.”