William Francis Diamond had an illustrious engineering and managerial career that spanned four decades with Island Creek Coal Company. During that time, he was responsible for the engineering and construction of the deepest coal mines in North America, and he solved engineering problems ranging from hand-loading machinery configurations to modern longwall mining ventilation.
Starting as an industrial engineer with Island Creek in 1940, W.F. Diamond steadily progressed in responsibility until his retirement as Vice President Engineering in 1978. Under his guidance, Island Creek’s Pocahontas Division in southwest Virginia constructed eight mines to an average depth of 1,350 feet, the deepest coal mines built up to that time in North America. He devised and oversaw the design of the mining plans for these mines, which featured larger pillars to accommodate the greater pressures that come with depth.
Diamond also foresaw that mining at such depth could cause methane to accumulate on the proposed longwall panels. His solution was to drill ventilation holes through which the methane was extracted in advance of mining. This has become standard coal mining practice, with the methane captured for commercial use.
In addition to his duties as Island Creek’s Chief Engineer, W.F. Diamond was responsible for the company’s maintenance, construction, and exploration programs. He led efforts to expand the company’s reserves by examining coal properties not only in the United States, but also in Canada, South America, and Australia.
After joining Island Creek, W.F. Diamond served successively as an Industrial Engineer, Mine Superintendent, General Superintendent, and Manager of Island Creek subsidiary Marianna Smokeless. At Marianna, he devised a number of improvements in belt conveyance that were adopted and used by leading belt manufacturers. He neither asked nor received recognition for these ideas but willingly shared them with other operators and suppliers. He was promoted to General Manager of Pond Creek Pocahontas Coal Company in 1947 and to Chief Engineer of Island Creek Coal, the parent company, that same year.
Diamond became a Vice President at Island Creek in 1965. In the 1970s he was responsible for engineering and construction planning for Island Creek’s proposed coal venture in China, which took place after his retirement in 1978.
W.F. Diamond received BS degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering from West Virginia University in 1938. He then earned a BS in mining engineering and an MS in power and fuel engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1940.
He married the former Paulynne Young in 1942 and they raised four children. W.F. Diamond received AIME’s Howard N. Eavenson Award in 1977 “for his outstanding achievement as a coal mining engineer; for his innovative approach to solving engineering problems, which answers he so generously shared with others in industry; and for his efforts in spearheading expansion into Western coal.”