ALUM CREEK, W.Va. – Another southern West Virginia coal company has decided it can’t make it in the current climate.
Alum Creek-based Coal River Mining and Coal River Processing announced plans Tuesday to permanently layoff 280 workers in early October.
The mines impacted include two underground mines, Fork Creek 3, Fork Creek 10 near Alum Creek along with Surface Mine 67 and Surface Mine 9 near Julian. The company also plans to idle its processing facilities, warehouse and offices.
“I think it was everybody on the property,” West Virginia Coal Association Bill Raney said.
Coal River sent WARN notices to the county commission offices in Boone, Lincoln and Kanawha counties Tuesday.
Parent company Coal River Energy blames the layoffs on “weak coal demand and government regulations.”
Raney said laws, policies and rules that are unique to West Virginia have raised the cost of production.
Coal River Managing Member Jim Bunn II said the company hopes to find a market for its coal so the company “can avoid some or all of the workforce reductions and the idling of some of our operations,” Bunn said in a prepared statement. “We cannot change all of the various issues that affect our industry, but we can focus on our personal safety and the safety of our co-workers.”
The layoff announcement follows similar decisions in recent weeks from large and small coal producers much of it tied to price and federal EPA regulations both for mining and clean air. Only one company, Cliffs Natural Resources in Wyoming County, has backed off from layoff plans and that was due to a management change.
Raney said West Virginia needs to take the lead in fighting for coal.
“It’s going to cost us a little more to do things at the power plants–in order to preserve our industry,” he said. “Because if this industry disappears from West Virginia you’re talking about an economic mess.”
Coal River’s announcement came the same day as two natural gas transmission companies announced plans for a $1 billion new pipeline project that will get its start in Marshall County.
“That’s a great investment but you can compare that to 280 people getting a WARN notice and I would be surprised if there’s ever 280 people that work on that pipeline,” he said.