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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  • George

    Well.......MsTennett it looks like the lights are going off in WV instead of Washington..I'm voting Republican!! enough is enough!!!!We have a Governor who has no respect for the unborn child,we are ranked 49th and 50th in every good poll ,no jobs and no I said , enough is enough. I only wish we could remove all of you out of office before November....I do want to thank Jim Justice, at least he does create more of a positive image of our State than our State Government does...

  • Mountainman

    Billions of dollars for illegal immigrants..... and a Pink Slip for THOUSANDS of miners, their families, and associated mining industry people who are willing and able to work American Citizens.

    For God's Sake, somebody needs to put a stop to this kind of thinking and government......

  • any major dude

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all the coal workers who may suffer layoffs. I do have two questions for those miners who have posted on this site.
    1) were you ever offered job retraining or the opportunity for education in another field?
    2) if you feel you need to move out of state, would it be to find another job in coal?

  • Robert

    This is the fault of the state and coal companies. For too long each have relied on the other for financial security. For the state, instead of investing in education they gave coal companies massive tax breaks. It's hard to attract business to the state when the workforce isn't educated. Everyone knew coal wasn't going to be as big as it was forever. You pay teachers 30% less than what they can may in any state in any direction then of course you're not going to get quality results.

    For their part, coal companies did not see the writing on the wall either. They spent their money lobbying congress for looser regulations rather than investing in other forms of energy and training their workforce in producing that energy. Imagine if they had a plan to do this over the last 10 years what they may have accomplished. You wouldn't be hearing about a bunch of jobs lost. Instead, you would hear about how they have been a model in how companies should adapt to changing markets. T Boone Pickens was able to do it but the coal companies seemed to have been clueless. And why wouldn't they have been when your state government and all of its representatives have sworn to protect them from the market and regulations?

    Both could use a dose of reality and like it or not, it's hear and it's gonna take years to rebuild after the big collapse in a few years.

  • any major dude

    My thoughts and prayers for all the coal workers who are affected by these possible layoffs.
    I do have 2 question for the workers who post on this site:1) We're you ever offered job re-training? 2) if you do move out of state, will it be to try to get another mining job?

  • DC

    Some valid points and some not so valid points, reality for me is that after 10 years of hard work, my family and I will possibly have to leave this state. That in itself should not be decided by anyone but me. Yet government influance to what ever degree is the reason. I am 50 years old, can you imagine trying to start over. Frankly, I find that overwhelming. 1100 miners coupled with miners already laid off and the assosiated companies affected along with revenue losses for the State add in demand for State assistence for the unemployed and this State will face money problems. A trickel down affect, to some degree, will occurr to even those of that are not directly or indirectly involved. Regardless of your position on coal, I will remain proud to be or have been a surface coal miner and not even Obama can that away from me.

  • MK

    I just had another thought. Many people hang on to losing causes because they do not know any better or are afraid of change. I know this will scare the crap out of a lot of you, but at some point in the future there may be more married same sex couples than coal miners in West Virginia. Sleep well.

  • MK

    A West Virginia politician admitting that market forces are PARTIALLY to blame for the downturn in the coal industry is a crucial step forward. Now follow up by admitting that market forces (not the EPA) are almost entirely the reason for the downturn, that coal is a dying industry and that a responsible leader would try to move the state in the direction of more sustainable industry.

    • George

      You must be a democrat.......

    • The bookman

      That is a great synopsis....from a completely uninformed perspective. Try reading a little more about the broad based energy needs of our economy and that of the rest of the world. Your statement fits the political discourse, but the reality is short and long term, coal is #1 or #2 in projected energy fuel source out as far as even the EPA forecasts useage. The actions of this administration creates an unnecessary disruption in the lives of people who have secured the energy needs of this country, and the future energy and steel production needs of the world.

  • Craig from Mink Shoals

    TURN COAL TO GASOLINE..What happened to that idea. Were we not going to build a plant. At $4.00 a gallon can't you make money?

  • Dumb Liberals

    The only way to beat this m0r0n, his minions (that includes his puppets Tennant, Rahall, cousin Earl Ray) and his Gestapo is thru total revolt. You also alienate any organization and/or location that allow the puppets to rally for their support. Your liberal / democrat vote had consequences! Love the m0r0n and his supporters now, do ya?

    • JMR

      Your comment is pure, right-wing idiocy. The free market doomed the Appalachian coal industry.

      • Frank

        Your comment is pure, left-wing idiocy. The government controlled market (Obama's EPA) doomed the Appalachian coal industry.

  • rick

    The timing of this announcement appears more political. Coal reserves are going down and coal is getting harder to mine. WV refuses to adapt to new market conditions so we are doomed for a bust economy eventually. The EPA regs are a bump in the road. China and India was buying a lot of coal and now they can't breathe over there because they dont have an EPA. They are buying half as much as before so guess what...we cant sell it so they wont need folks to mine it.

    • The bookman

      The flooding in Australia opened the door to increased exports to Asia. Now that they are back online, the competition for that market is more difficult. But make no mistake, the Chinese and Indians as well as other developing nations are burning more coal, not less.

      We need to utilize our resources to best of our ability with the best technology that is economically feasible. That is the regulatory mandate from under which the EPA is to operate. What they are doing now is beyond the scope of the CAA, and it is putting not only the coal industry in an uncompetitive position, it is putting our entire economy in an uncompetitive position. Energy fuels our economy, and if business must pay artificially more for it due to political maneuvering, it is a self imposed headwind by our own country on its own business community. All of this is based on the false premise that these regulations will reduce global CO2 concentrations and save the planet. That is factually inaccurate even if you have bought into AGW. A pointless charade.

  • Dennis

    R.I.P. Coal, the environmental wackos will soon be looking for something else to destroy.

    • JMR

      No. It was Big Coal that committed all of the destruction.

    • Aaron

      They've already started as Ed Rabel's call for moratorium on fracking demonstrates.

      • Jason412

        People were proposing banning fracking long before Ed Rabel campaigned on it.

        • Aaron

          Ok. How many potential Representatives have had that as part of their official platform?

  • Louisa

    I am one of these family members mentioned. My fiance works hard for his money to support me and our little girl. We're getting married on September 30. We will know September 29 if he still has a job. I have been sick to my stomach all day. We just bought our house, and just trying to make it in life. None of you know how this feels until it's you, or your family in the hands of someone else that can crush everything you have worked for. Please think of others before you comment your harsh words.

    • Benthere

      I'm sorry for the loss of your fiances job. I lived through the same and it's horrible. But there is hope if you are willing to change directions in life. Education and leaving West Virginia is the first step.

  • 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.