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.”

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  • Imgrill

    Maybe instead of blaming rules that haven't taken effect yet. People who care about mining families should spend that energy finding economic development that will employ people in 21st century jobs. Politics isn't killing coal, economics is killing coal and has been for 40 years. We had decades to act but have done nothing.

  • Coal?

    Though I feel badly for the people who will lose their jobs in the dying carcass of an industry that is coal, this is a blessing in disguise. Now if only more coal companies would cease operations and lay people off, we as a state could move on into the future and end our dependence on the poison that is coal.

    To all of the blind sheep who support the coal scourge, please read the following:

    People blame the coal industry for what the coal industry is responsible for - poisoned drinking water, polluted air that contributes greatly to pulmonary and other diseases, greatly reduced quality of life, destruction of mountains that have provided food, freedom, clean water, shelter, repose, beauty & medicine for generations. Remember, as you attack those who encourage West Virginia to move on past dirty, polluted & outdated coal, that there is NO freedom without clean water & as the Freedom Industries spill showed us, poisoned water is terrible for business. The coal industry is destroying itself by pillaging the land for short-term profit using as few miners as it can get away with (mechanization has led to more job loss than any other cause - employment continues to go down, production continues to rise) while completely ignoring and wholly externalizing long-term adverse impacts to our health, communities, local economies, land, air & water.

    Let's hope that coal continues its downward spiral and ceases to be an energy source in the not-to-distant future.

    Montani Semper Liberi!

    • Frank

      Spoken just like a typical bourgeoisie liberal leftist. Tell me, are you a paid environmental hack? You must get paid to troll all day. Do you even have a job or are you living off the government's dime?

      Unbelievable that you would say you hope coal "continues its downward spiral." What about the families of the coal miners? How are they supposed to earn a living? Or do you even care?

      Since you love your so-called clean energy, tell me, do you drive a car? A car pollutes. If you drive one you are a hypocrite, just like that fraud Al Gore. Oh, by the way, did you know how the Gore family attained some of its riches? Mining ... zinc mining to be exact. He has also invested in fracking. That's an "inconvenient truth" isn't it?"

      Do you live in WV? COAL is your energy source here. If you use your WV energy (brought to you by coal) to fire up your laptop, then you are a hypocrite.

      As the old saying goes, "Coal keeps the lights on." If you don't like it don't use it.

  • David


    It's the democrats that punish working people for voting democratic!

    Ironic huh?

  • J the C

    The President campaigned on this issue. He is following up on his promise to the American people. Unfortunately for us in coal country, the rest of America really isn't too concerned with our economic plight. We are in the minority on this, so you can keep spitting all the venom in his direction that you want, but it won't change anything.

    • Frank

      Change IS coming. On Election Day.

      • JMR

        Whatever that change may or may not be, it will not do A THING to save the dying coal industry in Appalachia. It's almost over, people. West Virginia HAS to move on to something else for the sake of soon to be out of work coal miners and their families.

  • Frank

    Obama and his administration are doing exactly what they said they would do: end the coal mining industry as we know it. The far left environmental whackos have taken over the Democrat Party. When are you people going to wake up? This is not the "Old South" Democrat Party of your grandpa;s. That party is long, long gone. More "green" energy and less coal energy means more money for Obama's top donors and buddies, who are environmental loons. Keep voting Democrat and you'll get more of this. Obama just said about the economy, "Things are getting better." What a bunch of BS. Let him and the Democrat Party career politicians come to southern WV and show them what kind of damage that they have done. It's time now for Rahall to go, too. He's a dinosaur and out of touch with the people in his own district. He supported Obama twice in 2008 and 2012. Not once, but twice! Unbelievable. He plays this game called "The Potomac Two-Step," says one thing to his voters back home in the district, then does another in DC. Get rid of Rahall in November and vote for the better man, Evan Jenkins. And if Jenkins wins and doesn't work out, vote him out in 2016. Stand up and make your vote count and make your representatives listen to you!

    • Worm

      New Flash.....the rest of the country wants the regulations. The rest of the country does not give a damn about coal or the state of West Virginia. Sad, but the cold hard facts. When 3 Mile Island happened everyone lost their jobs in atomic power. This rest of the country wanted nuke power to cease and no new plants have been built since. These facilities were in some significant states. West Virginia is not significant. End of story.

  • rick

    So what does an EPA ruling (mandated by the Supreme Court) to enforce the clean air act have to do with current market conditions. If China and India are buying so much coal then why is it not being shipped to them. They would rather blame it on politics rather than face the truth

    • Aussies

      Rick they are getting it from down under! Much cheaper prep and shipping costs!

    • Wow

      There is coal being mined in Australia now that is cheaper coal per ton than any coal we have. There is also coal being mined in western usa that is cheaper per ton than wv coal. If we can't sell our coal close to us we are at a big pricing disadvantage. China will not buy large amounts of our coal if it is too costly and shipping cost is high. Politics has killed our local markets, so yes, it is the Dumacrats who have killed coal.

      • Mountain Navy

        Yes but WV, Kentucky and VA are only some of the few states that have the quality coal it takes to run steel plants.

        • Wow

          True, I was talking about coal for power plants in china not steel production.

        • Wow


    • Mason County Contrarian

      Rick, through honest opinion you have left yourself open as a target for labeling, innuendo, and caustic rhetoric.

  • DP

    Watching the local news last night, I couldn't help but notice Natalie T. right up front with the protesting miners at the EPA hearings in Pittsburgh. Listening to "Talkline" this a.m., I heard Governor Tomblin and the Alpha spokesman both attributing these impending layoffs due in part to Obama's EPA rulings.

    However, N.T. and Rahall BOTH supported and campaigned for the Bystander/Fundraiser in Chief in 2008 and 2012! ANYONE with a brain the size of a pea knew what Obama's intentions were relative to coal! N.T. is without a doubt the BIGGEST HYPOCRITE (and Nicky Joe isn't far behind) in WV politics that I've witnessed in many, many years!!!!!

    Wise up voters and DO NOT vote for these two Far Left Wing Lemmings!!!!! By the way (as I've stated on this site numerous times), I'm not a Far Right Lemming. I voted for BOTH Manchin and Tomblin and will continue to vote for other Moderate Dems in the future!!!

  • Greg

    Well wait a minute, the Obama administration and his hand picked cronies who produce their lopsided economic reports say everything is better now. BS! I say drive the coal up to Pennsylvania Avenue and dump it!!

  • 2XLPatriot

    I'm sad to see all of these folks facing layoffs but, the unions and their membership voted for and made deals with this devil. He even stated in his campaigns that he would put coal fired power plants out of operation. That statement alone should have been a clue. If you voted for Obama the first time you are a fool. If you voted for him the second time, there is no hope for you.

    • Marcus

      He is a heckuva orator. Fork tongued devil. Some say the anti-Christ. I agree with all of them.

      • Uncle Unctuous

        I'm guessing you also believe there are goblins under your bed and gremlins in the closet.

      • Shadow

        You misuse Orator. He reads all of his words from a teleprompter. When he doesn't have a teleprompter, he stumbles.

  • tax man

    BOB! people like you are the very reason this country is in the shameful position it is in. thanks again BOB

  • Bob

    There is a market for coal, especially post-Fukushima. Germany is closing all their nukes, Japan is firing up old coal plants, and there a plenty of 3rd world markets that do not have the technology or infrastructure of economy and skilled workers to build nucs.

  • Bob

    Let's see, the layoffs are planned for October and the mid-term election is November; coincidence? I think not! I.m no fan of our Presidents stand against coal, but we can't give into the pressure of Wall Street bankers and greedy CEOs who punish working people for voting Democratic. You should be thanking Wall Street Shelley, who's a member of a party that will destroy this country if they're not in charge of it.

    • Mountain Navy

      You do realize Wall Street is in New York city? You do realize New York city is about 80 percent democrat? You do realize that 90 percent of Wall Street votes democrat?

    • Ry

      Business exist to make money. Business that make money employ people. Business that don't make money don't employ people. Alpha isn't making money, therefore, they are not employing people.

      Not sure why you think this is the result of some "wall street" conspiracy, and not economics 101.

      Those "greedy" CEOs and wall street bankers make money for their companies and (gasp) in the process keep their workers employed (and louder gasp) maybe even create more jobs so they can make even more money. Crazy talk, I know....

  • william

    Obama is LOVIN' IT
    The end of COAL.
    Now all you Obama lovers are getting what you DESERVE!

    • Uncle Unctuous

      As usual, William's "lovin' it." His entire frame of reference consists of McDonald's marketing and the colors of WVU coaching attire.

  • joeybiden

    c'mon Manchin, head over to your buddy, obama's, house and let him know his plan is working. more Americans being laid off and electric rates are the highest proud you're a democrap, joe...

    • Ted


  • Jason R.

    It's all good people. Natalie and Obama will make this all better.

    • Roger

      Neither were or are qualified for these positions. Time for an impeachment or revolution.