Because of difficult and persisting coal market conditions, officials for two Arch Coal mining complexes announced the need to further scale back production and personnel.
The mines are located in the bordering counties of Wise County, Va., and Letcher County, Ky.
Two mines operated by a contract company at the Cumberland River complex in Letcher and Wise counties will be idled immediately, said Arch Spokeswoman Kim Link. Cumberland River will continue to operate two captive, company-owned, mines and employ about 240 people.
In addition, the Hazard mining complex in Perry County has idled one loader spread, which has resulted in a small workforce reduction of 35 direct positions. Hazard will continue to operate five surface spreads with a workforce of approximately 250.
Link said there were a total of 65 employee positions affected in both Kentucky and Virginia.
Due to the contract mines idling, Im told there were approximately 45 contractor positions affected as well, said Link.
Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said, We have seen a decrease in the amount of layoffs and loss of production as compared to what we were seeing in 2012. While I wouldnt say were on a rebound yet, it does appear that these losses have flat lined and can hopefully begin the process of rebuilding.
Bissett added, Its important to remember were still mining nearly 50 million tons of coal in eastern Kentucky. So, while weve heard bad news and every job lost hurts our communities, there is still a lot of coal being mined. We need to ask the question why why is the coal market where it is, the pricing of natural gas is a factor. We also have an administration thats been re-elected who is very anti-coal. That has a real impact not only on production but also the use of the coal domestically. Its our hope that international markets, where the demand is expected to increase exponentially, will create a lot of opportunities for us, but it will take time for these markets to come to fruition.
U.S.-based Arch Coal, Inc. is one of the worlds top coal producers for the global steel and power generation industries, serving customers in 25 countries on five continents. Its network of mining complexes is the most diversified in the United States, spanning every major coal basin in the nation. The company controls a 5.5-billion-ton reserve base of high-quality metallurgical and thermal coals, with access to all major railroads, inland waterways and a growing number of seaborne trade channels.