The company originally issued Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARNs)for 11 different West Virginia mine sites, plus certain support operations, advising workers that their facilities were subject to being idled on Sept. 29 due to sustained weak market conditions and government regulations challenging the Central Appalachian mining industry.
Independence Coal’s Twilight (Progress) surface mine in Boone County and Pioneer Fuels’ Ewing Fork No. 1 (Pax) surface mine in Kanawha and Raleigh Counties will be idled immediately. Some 193 positions will be eliminated while approximately 35 employees will be retained to perform reclamation work and wind down operations to an idle state. The two mines will be maintained in a condition for the immediate future that will allow them to re-start should market conditions and coal demand improve. Combined, the two sites shipped approximately 760,000 tons of steam coal in the first half of this year and 660,000 tons of metallurgical coal.
Alex Energy’s Edwight mine in Raleigh County did not extend its WARN notification period and will continue to operate as usual.
The eight operations that received WARN extension notices, with a revised idling date of Nov. 26, 2014 or within the following two-week period, include Highland Mining’s Superior, Reylas, Freeze Fork and Trace Fork surface mines in Logan County and the North surface mine in Mingo and Logan Counties. Also, WARN extension notices were given to Black Castle Mining’s surface mine in Boone County, Republic Energy’s Republic and Workman Creek surface mines in Raleigh County, and additional technical and other support services for these mine operations.
Another Alpha affiliate, Marfork Coal Co., notified employees that it is eliminating 68 positions across several of the company’s operations and idling the Marsh Fork mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Marsh Fork was not part of the group that received WARN notices in July. The mine shipped approximately 100,000 tons of metallurgical coal in the first half of this year.
Alpha’s Wyoming-based Alpha Coal West subsidiary is holding job fairs for Alpha-affiliated workers to fill openings at their two large surface mines in the Powder River Basin. Additionally, some individuals may accept positions with other Alpha affiliates.
Cumulatively these actions are being triggered by persistent weakness in domestic and overseas coal demand and depressed pricing, along with government regulations that are causing electric utilities to close coal-fired power plants and forego new construction. A glut of of coal also has contributed to falling coal prices in international markets. The benchmark price of coal shipped to power plants in Europe continues to hover at a four-year low, while prices for metallurgical coal used to make steel have remained depressed throughout the year, reflective of oversupplied markets.
Alpha’s President Paul Vining said: “This is another step in the ongoing process of adapting to a dynamic coal market, with operations making adjustments to match the opportunities we see. Our operations managers and our sales group are working together to ensure that we’re in balance with customer demand and able to sustain the company profitably from the set of mines that will continue to operate.”