CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 1,100 coal miners and mine staff could possibly be laid off at eleven surface mine sites and supporting locations in southern West Virginia — all operated by subsidiaries of Alpha Natural Resources — before the end of October.

On Thursday afternoon, workers were notified of the possibility of layoffs at the following locations:

Highland Mining’s Superior, Reylas, Freeze Fork and Trace Fork surface mines in Logan County and the North surface mine in Mingo and Logan counties; Black Castle Mining’s surface mine in Boone County; Independence Coal’s Twilight surface mine in Boone County; Alex Energy’s Edwight surface mine in Raleigh County; Republic Energy’s Republic and Workman Creek surface mines in Raleigh County and Pioneer Fuel’s Ewing Fork #1 surface mine in Kanawha and Fayette counties.

The layoffs, which have not yet started, could affect preparation plants and other support operations as well.

In a statement, Alpha officials said the possible layoffs were “due to sustained weak market conditions and government regulations that have challenged the entire Central Appalachian mining industry.”

According to Alpha, the international price for coal shipped to power plants in Europe is at a four-year low while prices for metallurgical coal, used to make steel, are down more than 20 percent in the past year. Company officials said the demand for coal has dropped because of low natural gas prices, competition from other coal sources, and new regulations from the EPA for coal-fired power plants.

“Many mines in the region have done a great job finding ways to reduce costs and remain economically viable in this unprecedented business climate, but some Central Appalachian mines haven’t been able to keep up with the fast paces at which coal demand has eroded and prices have fallen,” said Paul Vining, president of Alpha, in a statement.

“So, our operations managers have to take a hard and serious examination whether they can sustain a number of mines and related operations by finding additional cost reductions and whether the business will be there to support them in the year ahead.”

So far this year, the Alpha mines receiving WARN notifications on Thursday have produced 4.2 million tons of thermal and metallurgical coal.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued the following statement following Thursday’s announcement from Alpha Natural Resources:

“The potential for layoffs and mine closures are heartbreaking and frustrating for our miners, their families and the communities in which they live. They depend on these jobs to keep food on the table and a roof overhead. My administration will closely monitor the situation and we stand ready to provide whatever assistance our miners and their families may need during this difficult time.

“We recognize market trends can play a part in these potential closures; however these actions also show the real-world impact of the regulatory environment in which industry must operate. Today’s announcement, in part related to power plant closures as a result of past EPA regulations, is why we remain concerned about the EPA’s current proposals regarding CO2.

“For years, we have tried to warn the EPA of the consequences of its irresponsible mandates and today, our fears have unfortunately become our reality. I again urge the EPA to reconsider its proposed plan and realize the real impact these new rules have on West Virginia miners, their families and our communities.”

The Alpha announcement continues a trend in southern West Virginia.

Earlier this year, 75 people were laid off at two Patriot Coal mine sites in Boone County — the Wells Complex in Wharton and the Corridor G Complex near Danville.

In June, Cliffs Natural Resources issued a notice of preliminary plans to idle the Pinnacle Mine in Wyoming County at the end of August, possibly impacting 450 miners.

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  • Andy

    It's tough news for these workers and their families, but we will see it more and more as the country and WV weens off coal. It's the right move for the country and state. The sooner coal jobs are no longer the best paying in southern WV the sooner the workforce will become educated and diversified. It is what it is, just accept it.

    • Wirerowe

      Andy this is not good for anybody other than clueless greens that want to feel good about themselves on the backs of familes that have had their lives torn apart. Tell your hollow promises of diversification and great jobs to the wife of a skilled middle age coal miner that wants to live where his family has live for generation, . What I will not accept is your complete ignorance of energy markets and the devastating impact that higher energy prices. Your heartlessness is predictable your ignorance is unacceptable,l

    • JR

      It is 100% NOT the right move for our country nor state! We're shipping millions of tons of coal over seas everyday! China's building new power plants and steel mills every month while our great liberal leadership are shutting more and more down everyday! Shutting down coal mining effects more than just the miners. Power plant workers, truck drivers, operators and small coal yard/house coal owners, etc.

      • David Kennedy

        China is bringing online, (on the average) ONE new coal fired power plant each day...and Yes, we are paying for that progress...with jobs and a lower standard of living...

        • Fact checker

          China is buying their coal from Australia as the shipping is pennies on the dollar compared to US shipping costs. Time for us to shift to a technologically sound and innovative alternative energy state. There can be life beyond coal, but it should be a slow smooth transition.

  • The bookman

    Before attempting to score political points in any direction, we should remember that this announcement impacts the livelihood of 1100 families, and jeopardizes their ability to make a living. How many of us could manage a smooth transition in occupation or career within 90 days? These are the real sacrifices of real people when politics, not reality, determine our path forward.

  • George

    Yea, let's keep putting the Dems back in office,,,,,Natalie's going to solve it all. (sarcasm intended)'. West Virginia ranks 49 and 50th in every category polled.........that's what you call leadership...The lights appear to be going out in West Virginia,,,,,,,not Washington...........I'm changing to independent......I'm tired of this mess..........our Governor is an Obama puppet in the finest form"...along with the rest of the Charleston Democrats".....

  • voter

    Rahall and Tennant are having a rally at the Logan Fire Department on Saturday. LOL

    • zero tolerance

      Who wants to wager all the union clowns will be there rallying for them?

      • Mike

        You're probably right, ZT. Cecil and his mindless sycophants may be out in full force to show solidarity. What a crock!

  • Mountainman

    One would think that these political types who cater to special interest groups simply for their vote, would have enough sense to put together a plan to replace the jobs they take away.

    Instead, they simply say, "Hell, coal's an easy and inconsequential target, there's not enough of the vote there to matter. Who gives a damn if those people suffer?"

    If these guys are going to eliminate coal, for whatever reason, they need to replace the jobs and livelihoods of the people and restore the communities impacted.

  • King Natural Gas

    Used to be if you wanted to run a NG power up here, you'd pay Henry Hub price and then the cost of piping it all the way up from Louisiana. Now, you buy it at Dominion South or anywhere in the Marcellus-Utica and no shipping. And while you'd would have paid 3.75 to buy spot gas at Henry today, you would have paid 2.02 at Dominion. You think old played out Appalachian coal can compete with that? Hail the New King.

    • Aaron

      Do you really believe natural gas will remain as cheap as it is now, particularly wants cold is not seen as relevant by ecoterrorist? You already have one left wing nut job running for Congress who believes that fracking should be halted.

      In addition to that aspect of what's to come for natural gas, the state needs to take a look at how it is taxed and utilize that natural resource for the betterment of West Virginia.

      For decades southern West Virginia politicians listened to the lies of how increased taxation would cause companies to go elsewhere and as a result that resource was not properly text. That mistake should not be repeated with natural gas. It's under OUR mountains and if the energy companies want to be extract the material, they should pay West Virginia for the right to do so.

    • afc

      Actually capp could compete with that before regulations and no permits added about $20/ton to our costs. Jacked the price up to where Illinois basin and prb took our markets. They say we are losing because of cheap natural gas. Cheap is relative. We are losing to a well run campaign that knows every delay, every regulation kills us slowly.

      • KNG

        What regulations have made CAPP so much more expensive while not affecting ILB or PRB?

        ILB is taking market share from CAPP because all plants have to be scrubbed making sulfur content no longer matter.

        • AFC

          Surface mines (all 11 mentioned above are surface mines) have seen costs triple in the last 12 years, largely due to inability to get permits and/or valley fills. It used to be possible to operate a shovel with 3-4 trucks. It now takes 10-12, entirely due to inability to get valley fills. Additionally selenium regulations have added greatly to our costs for minimal environmental benefits. Neither of these have affected PRB coal. Safety legislation and the new dust legislation will disproportionately affect CAPP underground mines. The list goes on.

  • RogerD

    Wharever you do Earl Ray, don't mention Obama by name when you discuss coal or your political career will be over.

  • Doug

    "Don't depend on Coal," Is your house solar powered? We all depend on it.

    • Cletus

      He means for job. As in get an education and get the hell out of West Virginia.

  • JTC

    I lost my coal mining job in 1986, did that mean that Reagan waged a WAR on COAL? I was told it was the market and that coal prices cycle, he did manage to bring the UMWA to its knees. Reagan fired the first shot in the War on Coal!

    • tom wv

      I beg to differ. Reagan was a friend to coal. A union is a blood sucking parasite on any business. By putting the brakes on unions he managed to help coal companies.

      • JMR

        "he managed to help coal companies" Ah! That's the rub! Reagan helped Big Coal but he didn't do ANYTHING but damage coal miners and their jobs.

    • pc

      Maybe, but good ole community organizer Obammy is dropping the H-bomb on coal . . .and West by God is "ground zero"!!!

    • George

      Yea but Obama has specifically said that coal would be short lived ......simple English"......GET THE DEMS OUT .ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

    • zero tolerance

      You read that off the back of your union card?

      • #1

        Hey zero! You got the name half right. Zero!

      • John

        Zero tolerance, you are idiot and a typical reactionary robot who has nothing original to say. JTC's point is valid and shows the flaw in your anti union bull. There is no way in hell these layoffs are raised by any union.

  • Jim N Charleston

    Be sure to vote a straight Democratic ticket this November and let Cecil Roberts be the leader of the UMWA for life

    All I got
    I'm Jim N So Charleston

  • william

    Obama is doing what he said he would do in 2008.
    Some people want to complaint NOW, what a joke, where were these people back in 2008?
    Coal is finished, just a matter of time.

    • Coalburner

      Alpha gives 5 reasons for the layoffs, 4 of which have nothing to do with actions of the federal government. Market conditions are killing coal. Coal owners are killing coal jobs.

      • Get A Clue

        What do you think is driving the "market forces?" And do you not know the EPA is the Feds? Geez

        Sad day in WV.

    • Beekeeper

      Where were those people? Did Obama win in West Virginia? Hope you're fine with your electric bill doubling or tripling.

  • Mountain Navy

    Thank you Natalie Tennant big Obama supporter. Another thousand jobs lost.

  • Wise

    Don't depend on coal. Get your education.

  • zero tolerance

    And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
    Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
    Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away..............

    • King Natural Gas

      Rhino just opened a new mine on the Green River. Illinois Basin coal is cheaper to mine and has a transportation advantage by being--on the river. CAPP coal has cheap natural gas on one flank and cheaper coal on another. Surrounded, clueless, and hapless is the WV way.

    • afc

      Actually, coal still doing pretty well in that part of ky.

  • Old inspector

    And will cause all the mines still running to run right no more !! And back to the Massey way , same game just. A few different players, any young guy that get layed off should never look back at coal mining because it is going to become much more dangerous and real soon , a repeat of the 80, s only. Much worst.

    • #1