CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An icon of the U.S. coal industry is gone. The death of Bob Murray Sunday at the age of 80 represents the end of an era in the coal business. West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said Murray was a throwback to another time. He’s one of the last who started as a red hat miner and worked his way all the way to the top of the company he founded as its CEO.
“He lived the American dream. He started as a miner, worked his way through school, and ultimately built the largest independent coal company in the world,” Raney said in an appearance on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline.
Bill Raney, West Virginia Coal Association President, talks with @HoppyKercheval about remembering the life of coal industry leader Bob Murray. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/pJktMLcKJ4
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 26, 2020
Murray became the top West Virginia coal producer when he maneuvered to secure as much of the steam coal market as he could by purchasing the holdings of Consol Energy in northern West Virginia. Raney said Murray was a visionary and saw things many others did not see.
“He was a true entrepreneur. He just had this picture and worked with the power plants. I’ve sat through many presentations where he would show concentric circles around these power plants and he would geographically obtain the reserves close to them he could get to by truck or belt,” he said.
Raney added Murray always believed the potential heat from the coal was at the heart of its value. He would always buy the highest BTU coal reserves he could find.
Murray employed several thousand workers at his various mining operation, not only in West Virginia and Ohio, but in Illinois, and in Utah. He spent some of his early career, according to Raney, in the Dakotas with coal gasification projects. Raney added Murray’s devotion was always to the people who worked for him.
“Whatever it took to make sure he could keep them working. It wasn’t so he could make more money, it was so they could have a career and take care of their families. I think that was his first priority from the professional side of his life,” he said.
Although he was known as an outspoken leader in the coal industry, Murray was deeply tied to politics. He donated big money and backed candidates he believed would benefit his industry, his livelihood, and those of his workers. It’s why he became such a strong figure in the 2016 election.
“He saw what was happening with public policy in regard to its effect on power plants, many of which he provided the coal for. That’s why it raised his urgency and raised his activity level,” Raney said.
Murray brought Donald Trump to Wheeling on several occasions for fundraisers. Indications were the two had built a solid friendship through their political association.
“He was a tremendous force in the coal industry and he truly, truly was devoted to his employees. His family, his faith, and his employees were critical to him and I hope that will be his legacy because he touched a whole lot of lives and was responsible for a whole lot of families and making certain they were taken care of.,” Raney said.