CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While considered an “essential industry”, coal mining has continued in the days since the first cases of Covid 19 Corona Virus was detected in West Virginia. However, several mines have idled production for different periods of time for different reasons.
Some are hoping to allow stockpiles to be used up as demand for coal falls amid the slowing of all activities for the virus. Other mines stopped production in hopes of slowing the spread and observing CDC guidelines. West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney indicated a lot of those operations are now ramping back up.
“We’ve had companies that announced furloughs or shutdowns for a couple of weeks. Some of those are coming to the end of the two-week shutdown and are starting back now,” Raney told MetroNews Monday.
The potential spread of the virus underground is just one more safety hazard miners are learning to deal with.
“There are adjustments. They’re using disinfecting wipes on equipment underground and on the surface. Safety meetings are being taken outside in smaller groups with more separation. I seldom see them without gloves, so they all wear gloves,” added Raney.
Ventilation is a concern, although the virus isn’t believed to be as big a threat through the air as it is in close quarters contact. Only limited number of workers at a time are allowed on elevators or the mantrip riding into the work face.
Raney said the market is another concern. Prices for all energy have fallen dramatically during the last few weeks, he said coal is no different.
“We’re hopeful those things can get worked out. The demand for electricity is certainly lower than it usually is with everything shutdown. The demand for steel is also down, since there’s not a whole lot going on with that either here or across the world,” Raney said.