MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — More than 800 West Virginia miners face unemployment this Memorial Day weekend, with another 589 alerted they may receive layoff notices this summer, after deep cuts announced Friday by Murray American Energy.
On the heels of a report in the Wall Street Journal, Murray American said it was eliminating 829 mining positions at coal companies in Marshall County, Marion County, Ohio and Harrison County.
A Friday afternoon statement from the company faulted the Obama administration, market factors and West Virginia taxes:
“We regret that, due to the vastly increased use of natural gas in the Ohio Valley area to generate electricity, the ongoing destruction of the United States coal industry by President Barack Obama, and the excessive coal severance tax in the State of West Virginia, workforce reductions and operational changes have been forced upon the company.”
The 589 workers at the Monongalia County Coal Company were told some will be laid off indefinitely effective July 21. Corporate representatives did not indicate how many of those miners could be affected.
Murray American also announced the elimination of 249 jobs at facilities in Ohio and 162 in Illinois.
The fact media reports surfaced before Murray American’s release drew criticism from Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America International.
“(The miners) have done everything asked of them, and more. The fact that they had to read about these layoffs on the internet before they heard about it from their employer does a disservice to their dedication and commitment to being among the best coal miners in America,” Roberts said.
Murray American already furloughed several hundred workers earlier this year because of large stockpiles.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a statement following additional reports of layoffs in the coal industry.
“Additional layoffs and mine closures are heartbreaking for our miners, their families and the communities in which they live. These cutbacks affect more than just those directly employed—they affect suppliers, support services and retailers whose businesses depend on these companies and their employees,” said Tomblin.
Murray American said it created 400 jobs when it acquired operations in West Virginia in December 2013. More than 4,000 miners have been employed by the company in the Mountain State.