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Chris Cline


2019 Inductee

Chris Cline launched his career in the coal industry in 1980 at the age of 22. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father before him, he began working as an underground coal miner in southern West Virginia. He quickly moved into management, where he learned to use unique tools to motivate his workforce to develop and run low-cost coal mining operations. Working proactively with union and union-free operations, Chris Cline’s successes attracted the notice of major coal companies who engaged him to provide contract mining services for their own mines.

In 1985 as his market knowledge deepened and he developed a reputation as a low-cost coal producer, Chris moved his company from its contract mining roots toward developing and operating its own mines, preparation plants, loading docks and coal sales arms. Chris formed his energy development group, the Cline Group, in 1990, and through his front-line experience in each of these disciplines, his proactive approach to mine development and the strength of his workforce and management team, he was able to capitalize on opportunities others missed. The Cline Group was soon recognized across the industry as a reliable coal supplier, an excellent lessee, and a desired employer committed to the health and safety of its miners — characteristics that continue to drive its success today.

Over the next decade, the Cline Group developed and operated some of the most productive underground coal mines in the country. Its operations in the Appalachian region placed the company among the top 20 coal producers in the United States, with an annual production capacity of approximately 10 million tons. In 2003, the Cline Group sold its mature mining and processing concerns in Appalachia, and concentrated on developing new opportunities in the coal sector.

Faced with rising mining costs and depleted coal reserves in the Appalachian region, the Cline Group shifted its focus to the plentiful coal reserves in the Illinois Basin. The company began acquiring reserves there in 2005, in anticipation of a renewed interest in high sulfur, high Btu coal. Foresight Energy LLC was formed in 2006 to develop and operate the company’s Illinois mining assets. Since that time, Foresight Energy has progressed from undeveloped reserves with zero production to four producing coal mining complexes in central and southern Illinois and a high-volume coal transloading facility on the Ohio River in Indiana and short-haul railroad lines to increase flexibility.