While the Dickenson County mine is approaching the end of its life, a company spokesperson said that the decision to permanently idle was a direct result of continued adverse market conditions including high operating costs and deflated met coal pricing.

Sixty-six of the mine’s workers will be officially laid off in 60 days, while the remainder will work to remove equipment and infrastructure and close the mine in September. Alpha has not indicated if any of the workers will be offered transfer opportunities, and also did not confirm what will become of the mine’s equipment fleet.

Production at Cherokee, located near Haysi, has declined from a high of 570,000 tons in 2007 to less than 300,000 tons last year, and the mine was on track to produce less than 300,000 tons in 2014.

“It is always difficult when we’re forced to make a choice like this, because it impacts hard working men and women and their families,” media director Steve Hawkins said. “Yet, in a case like this, these actions are sadly necessary.”

Cherokee, one of 22 mines in Alpha’s Virginia portfolio, was owned by Dickenson Russell Coal and began producing in 1997. It became a part of Alpha in 2002.