Ryan PrittThe Charleston Gazette
September 18, 2012
Julia Roberts Goad
Four West Virginia coal mines will be idled and 1.200 miners will lose their jobs in what Alpha Natural Resources is calling saying is a “reshaping mine operations, establishing core set of durable, cost-competitive assets.”
Two Mingo County mines, the Premium highwall mine at Gilbert, and the White Flame Surface mine near Wharncliffe, will close. The Alloy mine near Powellton, and the Alloy surface mine near Boomer, both in Fayette County will also close, along with three mines in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania.
Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield said it a difficult decision but says it’s a necessary part of shifting business away from U.S. power plants and toward overseas steel mills.
A statement by Alpha said the closings were part of an “organizational streamlining that will reduce overhead costs by $150 million, accelerate adoption of operating best practices and performance improvements.”
West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said the layoffs were partially a result of what has been termed the Obama administration’s War on Coal.
In two recent court edicts, judges held that the EPA had overstepped its boundaries in enforcement of regulations, but Raney said the Obama administration appears to let those decisions go unheeded.
“It seems to be from the standpoint of trying to bully the state and bully the companies,” Ramey said.
Media outlets have quoted Alpha spokesperson Samantha Davison as citing several factors, such as the sharp and swift plunge in natural gas prices and conversion by erstwhile coal-fired power plants, the unusually mild winter, changes in met and thermal coal, and EPA rules. However, calls to Alpha Natural Resources by the Williamson Daily News were not returned.
Mine idlings and production curtailments will reduce annual coal output approximately 16 million tons by early 2013, Alpha said.