CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Officials with Alpha Natural Resources say they cannot find buyers for the tons of coal being produced at some of the company’s subsidiaries in southern West Virginia.

Because of the glu, up to 1,100 coal miners and other workers at those surface mine sites were notified of possible layoffs this week.

“Although there is a chance that there are things that could turn around, what we want to tell folks is — let’s look at the very real picture and that is that we can’t find a home for this coal,” said Ben Beakes, director of government and external affairs for Alpha Natural Resources.

“We have to have people willing to buy the coal in these conditions in order to keep mines going.”

On Thursday, layoff notices—required 60 days in advance of possible job cuts by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification or WARN Act—went out to the employees at eleven surface mine sites in six West Virginia counties.

Those layoffs could fully take effect by October.

“My heart just goes out to those people that got the WARN notices,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told MetroNews “Talkline” on Friday. “We certainly hope and keep on hoping that, within the next 60 days, that the market will improve some. We’ve been hoping this for some time.”

The affected surface mine sites are 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 could affect preparation plants and other support operations for all of the mine sites.

“It’s not only those 1,100 good-paying mining jobs, but (it’s) the transportation, all of the auxiliary businesses that work to support the mines,” Tomblin said. “There’s a whole lot of tentacles to this thing as we look down the road.”

According to Alpha, which is based in Bristol, Va., those mines have produced 4.2 million tons of thermal and metallurgical coal so far this year. In recent years, Beakes said that kind of coal production has helped supply three power plants that are now former coal customers because of EPA regulations.

“We’re afraid that there’s more to come with those EPA regulations. They hurt the coal industry. They hurt miners and so that’s really what we’re facing. It took a big chunk out of our tons that we supply to those power plants that are not buying coal in 2015,” Beakes said.

“It’s just a sad day that we have to make these decisions, but most of the folks who are affected understand why this is happening. It doesn’t make it any easier.”

bubble graphic

94

bubble graphic

Comments

  • jess

    I figure once everyone is laid off they will suddenly find buyers and hire everyone back as contractors. Less pay, no benefits and no insurance. How will we blame the EPA for that?

  • LDB

    You natural gas people enjoying our pain need to think more realistic. When coal is no longer mined the state will still be needing taxes. When they can't get it from coal you will be next. When you start paying taxes at our levels and start being regulated like us how cheap will your NG be. You will be next on the tree huggers list.

  • Luke

    So let me get this straight. The USA (EPA, Democrats, Liberals and our tree huggers, etc) are going full steam ahead and as quickly as possible to protect the ozone and the environment in any way they can and no matter what it does to our economy and our families. Is that correct? Ok, I thought so. So while the rest of world continues on their industrial and cultural paths without any or little regard for protecting the planet. I.e. China, etc. So then are we (we refers to the group described above representing the USA) trying to convince others in the world by our actions to change their policies and destroy their economies too? Good luck with that one. There is no positive result to the environment or the clouds above unless the whole world is on board. No umbrella over the USA. MThat will never happen. So why then are we rapidly choosing to destroy one industry in lieu of a strategic plan to migrate away so no or little impact is felt by any? Where is the strategic plan to slow roll away from fossil fuels and replace that industry with something else so jobs continue and families and the impacted states can sustain their citizens? There was no plan from the fed govt level. Just do as I say and like it. This is total BS. If you think our POTUS, his EPA, the liberals and the tree huggers have Everyone's best interest at heart, you are an idiot or simply gullible. End of story.

    • susanf1218

      Although I feel badly for the coal miners and their families who will be affected by this situation, your argument that we should continue using coal because "everyone else is doing it" is weak. Have you seen pictures of the terrible air pollution in China? Do we want to have those kinds of problems here? And, from what I am reading, the problem seems to be more a matter of finding a market for the coal, not so much the regulations that the EPA is enforcing.
      There is no good solution or easy answer to this issue, but once again, it clearly shows that WV needs to diversify its economy and stop relying on coal as the primary source of revenue.

      • InThe Dark

        When you are in the dark and can't afford to pay for electricity, you remember your comments............ coal is the cheapest form for electricity production.. coal mining has been going on for years and years, and you don't see pollution here like is reflected in China.......... and the EPA regulations are the main & underlying "problem" for coal.. all you tree hugging liberals and OBAMA supports are the same - blind as bats and ignorant as can be!

      • The bookman

        Two things.

        China is light years behind us in the management of particulate pollution to which you are referring. That is why it is laughable that the Chinese will jump forward to manage CO2 emissions, but allow the obvious health risk of particulates.

        If you truly want a diverse economy, hopefully you will support transitioning our state to a business friendly model. That means supporting different political leaders with a pro business, anti organized labor platform.

    • Wow

      You are right on the mark.

    • Frank

      You make many valid points. Here's the bottom line: It's all about the almighty dollar. To most of the people invested in so called "green energy," they stand to gain billions of dollars more every year once coal and eventually all fossil fuels are no longer allowed to be used. It's a gigantic political game and long term plan. It's not about cleaning up the environment and "saving the planet." It's about money and it's about eliminating the competition so you HAVE to go to "green energy." I'm positive I am right on this.

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Alpha is *producing* tons of coal but can't find a buyer for it anywhere in the world. How'd they even manage to get it out of the ground, past the soldiers of the "War on Coal"?

    • Wow

      You are truly stupid. You can't sell coal when between price and shipping cost you are far too high priced. You are just a hater of coal and any company that mines it.

      • Uncle Unctuous

        Ah, so it's the market that's to blame, eh?

        • Wow

          Yes, uncle, the local market is destroyed by the EPA and over sea's markets are buying cheaper coal. Why is this so hard to understand?

        • The bookman

          "According to Alpha, which is based in Bristol, Va., those mines have produced 4.2 million tons of thermal and metallurgical coal so far this year. In recent years, Beakes said that kind of coal production has helped supply three power plants that are now former coal customers because of EPA regulations."

          Are those market forces at work, or government induced decisions based on future risk assessment. If I were a power generation company, and I had to decide on long term investment options given the current regulatory paradigm from the EPA, I would choose to invest in NG over coal for certain. Why? Because the game has been fixed to prefer NG over Coal due to the cost of credits to remain in compliance. Even if the price of NG skyrockets, which it will do based on the economic theory of increasing demand outpacing supply, the price will increase, the overall margin for NG over coal will continue to be supported.

          Some would say, "So what?"

          The overall implication is that everyone will pay more for electricity, except for the few who are subsidized like alternative forms such as wind or solar, and to a lesser degree, nuclear. Those subsidies will be paid predominately by those who get their power from coal. The average bill is projected to increase to such a degree as to create the need for conservation, not because the rate payer has become environmentally aware, but because the sticker shock of their bill will cause then to cut back on their usage. Less heat in the winter, less air in the summer, less comfort all the way around.

          The American Way is not described as taking a step backward. And it certainly isn't described as non competitive. This policy supports both concepts.

  • Daniel

    Keep voting Democrat idiots! More of this is on the way when, and if, you vote Natalie into office! You're to damn blind to see from the lights in your eyes what is happening and yet you continue to repeat the same when it comes to elections and the people you vote for. Again, I say: Idiots!!!!

    • Bob

      You want to see a real idiot? Look in the mirror! I don't care who you vote for or what your beliefs are but can't you articulate them in a fashion without being so mean and hateful? We will never make progress with those type of attitudes.

  • Gary Karstens

    One step closer to clean air. Ahhhhhhhh!

    • JR

      You must be high on liberal farts!

    • Jonus Grumby

      While you are sitting in the dark. Ahhhhhhh!

      • Mason County Contrarian

        Come now. Do you honestly think that the switch from coal is going to turn out anyone's lights?

        If you do, then you don't know or understand the American entrepreneurial spirit.

        • The bookman

          Do you really think that switching from coal to renewables in this country, even if possible, would result in the reduction of CO2, and subsequently halt global warming? If so, then you are alone, as no one believes that. If not, then why should we make such a devastating choice that results in increased costs of energy that ripples through all sectors of our economy?

          • Mason County Contrarian

            I am no scientist or politician so I cannot answer that question.

            One thing I do know is that the bottom line does all the talking in any economy. That is something no scientist or politician can change.

            Now gas carries the day and they're relishing the moment. I guess we now know how New England whalers of the nineteenth century felt when they were displaced by coal and petroleum.

      • Jared

        +1

  • B

    I fear what all of you are failing to see is the impact this will have on public schools and their employees . The double wammy of competition in casino gambling coupled with the demise of the southern coal fields spells disaster for teachers, administrators and most importantly, the students of the West Virginia. Charles Town Races is suffering from the competition from MD casinos and laying people off. It's revenues have fallen some 90 million from the previous year. We need real leadership and we need it quick or the quality of life in this state will decline. Can we attract new businesses to our state? I

    • Wow

      Good point, be on the lookout for property taxes to go sky high.

  • Mr.P

    Exporting coal to other countries is going to be the key to mines staying open and shutting down its all in who get the contracts to fill orders

  • Mr.P

    They should take every treehugger whose electric comes from coal fired power plants and turn their power off this entire winter and then see how much they hate coal.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      And you will see the bumper sticker, and the bumper sticker shall set you free.

    • Frank

      Yes, great idea. When it was -2 degrees last January and my car would not start because the battery was frozen I was at least very grateful for my warm house and power, brought to my family by COAL.

    • Mary

      Excellent idea. I have always said that too.

  • Natural Gas

    Hi folks, just checking in. Life is good up here in natural gas country. Our supervisors make $100,000 per year and our lowest page newcomer makes $19 per hour. We are building infrastructure and a power distribution grid. We are desperate for employees, however, and welcome anyone who has been displaced by the demise of the coal industry to apply. One important thing to remember is we are non-union through and through so no crybabies, loafers, and workmens comp milkers need apply.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      Yeah, let's repeat the cycle of fleeting prosperity followed by economic desolation once the extraction of the natural resource is played out. Seems like a far-sighted solution. After all, it worked with coal.

    • Mr.P

      Yeah life is good for now Natural Gas but once they get all the wells drilled then guess what happens,they won't need YOU any longer,then see who the crybaby is.

    • Savage

      Wait till regulation catches up with you, you won't be so boastful then.

    • Marion

      Hey natural gas! You dumb a#%. ! Unions built this country ! And further more the men making all that $ in the gas field are working ungodly hours ! I'm union and have worked on those well sites more than I cared for. We work our butts off while there. If anyone needs union backing it's the ones at the well head for sure. And they don't make $19.00 pr hr . !!!!

      • Mason County Contrarian

        I have heard that same story from others. The work is hard, the money is good.

        Many posters believe that when they lack knowledge or experience then they will simply parrot a preconceived notion.

        No heat or light without coal? An asinine notion, at best. For now natural gas improves the bottom line, pure and simple-whether Democrat or Republican. And plants are converting left and right.

        • The bookman

          Given the historical volatility of NG, coupled with the projected increase in demand, coupled with the environmental concerns surrounding fracking, do you believe that at current pricing levels per ton of non metallurgical coal NG will always be the better bottom line choice for energy production? When considering market prices and market forces, you must also consider the increased cost of regulation, cost of credits necessary for compliance, and the eventual erosion of coal production and generation infrastructure in the equation to explain the current decisions being made in the energy sector. If coal is in the crosshairs, and it is clear that using coal for electrical generation will not be profitable due to emission standards, then could that not explain the transition to NG away from coal? The NG industry needs the price of NG to increase substantially to turn a profit. It is the current regulatory climate for extraction and the pending regulatory cost of emission compliance that has created the transition to NG over Coal power plants, not the price of NG. NG is going to increase, because it is currently not profitable to extract it at the current price.

          • The bookman

            MCC:

            I can agree with most of what you say, I just don't see the need to pump the water out of the pond. If coal is going the way of whale blubber, then it does. Proven reserves say otherwise, but it is a finite resource so eventually it will not be competitive to extract. We do carry our eggs in one basket, and that basket is resource extraction. It is, however, a natural strength. We are blessed with abundant valuable commodities, and it is a tragedy that we have managed our wealth so poorly.

            Better leadership would have provided a more diverse landscape in WV. We need to not squander our second chance with NG, and demand a forward plan before we are on the back end of the boom curve. Have a good Sunday.

          • Mason County Contrarian

            Yes, I do criticize Big Bu$iness on my posts.

            West Virginia's pond is extremely small, so when the rock of Big Bu$iness makes a splash I become skeptical.

            In another state-and I have lived in plenty-not so much so. The ponds (opportunities and economic diversification) are greater. Our families are split apart by the need for more opportunities are other ponds across the nation.

            Rather than adapt to change, we just refuse to accept it and prefer to maintain our membership in the Flat Earth Society.

            And that is fine, just don't expect others to go along with it.

            The pond is drying up. We best heed that and find another.

            Just an opinion.

          • The bookman

            MCC:

            I don't lack the knowledge on these issues, and have studied them extensively, and am not parroting preconceived notions. Yes, it is about the Benjamin$. Yours and mine. Our energy costs are going up, and it is directly a purposeful choice made on our behalf by those who prefer green energy over coal. No, it isn't even remotely analogous to whale oil versus coal. As a man who usually argues that big business, Jim Justice types are busy putting the screws to the little guy, you certainly are on the opposite of the fence on this argument. I am surprised that you support an intentional, unnecessary increase in the cost of energy.

          • Mason County Contrarian

            You've asked a lot of valid questions here and I cannot answer them.

            I hope you can get your questions answered.

            Remember, it is all about the Benjamin$.

  • william

    It is the end of coal!

  • knows

    no matter where u stand on the coal issue we still need it. who u gonna blame when we have brown outs or no electricity. how the hell will that work for the economy
    at best it would take a few years to retool power plants for gas. even if they do that if u eliminate coal fired plants we don't have any means to satisfy electricity demand

    • Frank

      You are correct. Yes we need coal. We need it in WV and the rest of the nation needs it to accommodate our energy needs. I was told by a coal industry insider that two dormant coal power plants in PA had to be fired up last January just to meet the high demand for electricity. He said the whole grid was on the verge of collapse. Remember last January? It was below zero in some parts of the state. Could you imagine brown outs and power outages in the middle of the winter with it that cold? Yes, we NEED COAL. I am thankful for coal and our coal miners from keeping us from freezing to death last winter.

  • coal is gonna do just fine

    Exports of US coal are at record levels and three new ports are being built on the West Coast in Washington and Oregon to accommodate the demand. What Alpha won't tell you is that western coal has priced WV coal out of the market. What political operatives won't tell WV voters is that EPA regs that will reduce domestic consumption will be entirely offset by exports within 3 years. The Homestead resort just scraped its coal fired plant for a natural gas one. Why? Cost. Natural gas from fracked wells is cheap to transport and cheaper and more efficient to burn. The war on coal is a political scam. Coal is doing just fine, Appalachian coal not so much.

    • Mason County Contrarian

      I am sure that the West Virginia coal lobbyists and their pocketed state politicos really appreciate that piece of honest, forthright information.

    • Worm

      +1 someone who understands the industry. It's all about price point.

  • jeff

    Blame the current Administration if it makes you feel better but Coal mining is cyclical. Always has been & always will be. I hate that some will get laid off, but use that time to learn new skills & be productive.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      Stop making sense. Lots of us WVians don't cotton to that. We want our coal, we want it now, we want it forever, because coal is forever and ever amen, and we don't want to think about anything else.

  • Teach

    Karma tells us what those jobs might be?? Not long ago we were told not much gas left! But wow guess what more was found! Besides we r not using that much coal that puts r resources at risk of running out! Coal AND gas can both be in production in this state! Guess what sad to say but this county has had just as many people killed in a classroom as they have in the mines! Why r we relying on other countries for everything! We need to get r country united again! R own kids r going hungry!