CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Optimism is being felt and talked about at the 2019 West Virginia Mining Symposium.
The 46th annual event is being held at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in the capital city Tuesday and Wednesday and is being hosted by the West Virginia Coal Association (WVCA).
WVCA President Bill Raney said there is more to be excited about this year.
“We have a bigger crowd this year than we had last year,” Raney said. “It is growing, there is an optimism, there is a lot of enthusiasm out here. People are excited about the export market.
“We are gathering everybody up with their concerns and issues. We will spend time with the legislator this evening (Tuesday). We’ve got all the agencies coming in to talk to us about what is going on with them. Experts in the industry are here to share their thoughts and ideas on how we can progress and continue to be what we think a real mainstay in the state’s economy.”
One of the concerns among the crowd was about the domestic market of steam coal. Raney said about 10 years ago they were selling to 165 powerplants and last year they sold to 51. He noted that regulation was the driving force behind the early shutdowns.
West Virginia mined about 97 million tons of coal last year, Raney said, and that the state is hoping to get to 100 to 110 million tons in the next couple of years.
“The state of coal is good,” he said. “Now people don’t have nearly enough people working. Every company here is looking for folks to go to work. We are struggling with the workforce just as all industries and businesses are.”
Coal industry leaders from around the region have spoken or will be speaking at the event, including Governor Jim Justice and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Both spoke on Tuesday morning with Justice touting the number of coal miners back to work.
“This state is much better,” he said. “Your industry, my industry is better. We have got to preserve that and absolutely perpetuate more and more growth. You do so much good, it is unbelievable.
“I can’t assure you beyond a doubt that things are going to continue to be great for years and years to come but things are better. There are a lot of coal miners back to work. The multiplier effect of one job coal is just astronomical.”
Justice said he owes his whole life to coal and there is nobody on this planet that is going to defend the industry more than him.
The symposium will be visited by legislators on Tuesday evening and a couple will take the stage on Wednesday. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, and State Supreme Court Judge Evan Jenkins are scheduled to give keynote addresses on Wednesday.