The 2007 Howard N. Eavenson Award
Awarded To: Thomas J. Lien
"For his outstanding contribution to the development of large surface mines using the truck/shovel method and optimizing productivity advancements through the use of process management techniques with an emphasis on the participatory management style which is highly dependent on employee involvement."
Lien received his B.S. in Geological Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1965 and began his 40-year mining career with Kennecott Copper in Ray, AZ as a geologist, metallurgist and mine quality control engineer. In 1970, he moved to Kaiser Steel as a process engineer and then superintendent of pelletizing at their Eagle Mountain, CA Iron Ore Mine. In 1977, he went to work for Mountain States R&D in Vail, AZ as senior process engineer and then superintendent of operations. Lien joined AMAX Coal in Gillette, WY in 1980 and served in six engineering and operations positions in Gillette and Indianapolis before he was appointed President, Wyoming Operations in 1989. In 2001, he was named Senior VP of Western Operations with responsibility for WY, CO and UT until his retirement in 2005 from Foundation Coal.
Regardless of position, Lien’s driving focus throughout his career was two-fold: the continual pursuit of excellence and innovative program development to effectively increase production and decrease costs consistent with safety, environmental compliance, and capital utilization.
The Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte surface coal mines each received the Sentinels of Safety and top Wyoming safety awards. His WY, CO and UT operations received national and state awards for excellence in reclamation, for their environmental stewardship, and were leaders in the development of western reclamation techniques.
Lien believed in the capability of his entire workforce (hourly and salaried) to work more effectively and to assume greater work responsibility. In 1968, he created his first cross-functional work team in quality control. In 1985, he instituted the first 12 hour shifts with 24/7 coverage schedule in the PRB as an experiment. Not only was this adopted division-wide in 1987, it now is the standard for operations in the PRB.
Lien’s pursuit of excellence included preventative maintenance and mining technology. The initial P.M. program, started in 1983, continues to be state-of-the-art with improvements in equipment availability (based on an 8760 hour year) from the mid-60% to the high 80%/ low 90%. Equipment useful life expectancy doubled without sacrificing productivity and unit cost. Mine plan engineering changes, coupled with continuous operation, reduced capital requirements by 50%. With the acquisition of VIMS equipped 240 ton CAT haul trucks in 1994, the value of continuous equipment monitoring was recognized and the first PRB truck dispatch system with incorporated GPS was developed. This allowed operations, engineering, and maintenance employees to monitor and record equipment usage, condition and location real-time. This further evolved as an employee training tool so that individual operator performance could be evaluated and corrected. This reduced equipment misuse, improved performance and reduced costs.
During his career, Lien was responsible for producing in excess of 650 million tons of coal for the utility industry. Many of his programs were incorporated into other business units of his company and adopted by other companies as cost effective and employee- focused management techniques.
Lien was a charter member and past chairman of SME’s PRB section, past president and board member of the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute (RMCMI), past board member of the Wyoming Mining Association, past board member of the Western Research Institute, and past board member of the Wyoming Heritage Society. He continues to be active in the Colorado SME, the RMCMI, Colorado Mining Association and the Denver Coal Club. Lien has authored and presented over 12 papers on PRB mining, clean coal technology, heavy media separation, and mining technology. He currently consults nationally and internationally for various clients in the energy business.
The Howard N. Eavenson Award, first presented in 1969, is given for distinguished contributions to the advancement of coal mining.