Irwin Mine and Tunneling Supply buys W.Va. firm, expands Blairsville product line

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Irwin Mine and Tunneling Supply, an affiliate of Irwin Car and Equipment, has announced it will be expanding production at its Blairsville plant following the company's recent purchase of TDT, a manufacturer of portable rock dusters and belt clamps based in Mt. Hope, W.Va.

According to Pat Rengers, vice president of energy products for Irwin Mine and Tunneling Supply, production of the rock dusters is expected to begin in the coming week at the Blairsville facility.

“When we acquired that company we had to modernize the drawings” for the units, he noted.

The line of portable spot dusting and re-dusting equipment taken over from TDT will complement Irwin's existing line of bulk rock dusters that can be customized to the specifications of coal mine operators.

“This acquisition gives us the ability to be a single-source supplier for all of our customers' rock dusting needs,” William Baker, President and CEO of Irwin Car and Equipment, stated in a press release.

Required under mining safety regulations, duster units apply inert rock dust to wall, roof and floor surfaces in a mine's interior that are covered with coal dust. Providing fire suppression, the rock dust serves to “help prevent a fire or put it out if a fire should occur” in a mine, Rengers said.

While bulk dusters are used to initially coat all surfaces as mining advances, Rengers noted the smaller spot dusters can be used to touch up areas as needed.

“As you mine new coal, there's a certain amount of dust that attaches to the walls and floors,” Rengers said. “You continually have to cover up the coal dust with new rock dust.”

With the purchase of TDT, Irwin also acquired a line of belt clamps that can be used in any industry that employs conveyor belts, Rengers added.

“It's a small product. There's not a lot of production involved in it,” he said of the clamps, noting Irwin will assemble the item from cast parts.

While acquiring TDT and its product lines has the potential to help Irwin expand its sales, there are no immediate plans to increase the workforce at Blairsville or add to the plant, which exceeds 50,000 square feet.

Rengers noted the company laid off 14 workers this past fall.

“We won't be hiring anybody, but if things pick up, we may bring people back,” he said.

Rengers observed that the coal mining industry is ”down,” citing a preference in the White House for other fuel sources.

As a result, Rengers said, “Right now business is relatively slow” for coal mine suppliers like Irwin.

But the timing also was right to purchase TDT, with its similar, complementary product line.

“The owner was in retirement age and he felt it was a good time to sell,” Rengers said of the West Virginia company. “And we felt it was a good time to buy. It gives us more products to make for our existing customers,”

Headquartered in Irwin, Irwin Car and Equipment engineers and manufactures custom locomotives and heavy-duty material handling equipment for underground mining and tunneling operations. In addition to rock dusters, the company also supplies the mining industry with a selection of conveyor systems, specialty mine cars, belt winders, mine ventilation systems, drills, man-trips, locomotives, water filtration systems, replacement filter elements, mine switches, signaling devices and replacements parts.

Irwin's product line for heavy industrial manufacturing includes transfer cars, furnace cars, ladle and scrap cars, scale cars, turntables, wheels, wheel assemblies, crane wheels, rubber-tired steerable trailers and transporters.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or

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