Altogether 10 mining operations are affected, four in eastern Kentucky and six in southern West Virginia. When completed, the adjustments are expected to reduce annual coal production by approximately 4 million tons, most of which originates on the CSX rail system. The total includes approximately 2.5 million tons of thermal coal and 1.5 million tons of lower quality, high-volatility metallurgical coal. Eastern Kentucky operations will scale back thermal coal production by about 1.5 million tons while the remaining reductions will occur in southern West Virginia.
Management and human resources personnel at the affected Alpha subsidiaries have met with their employees to outline potential relocation opportunities at other operations with unfilled vacancies along with wage and benefit continuation plans. Alpha expects that, once the available transfer opportunities are filled, approximately 320 employees will be displaced within the next few weeks.
“A business decision like this is so difficult because it impacts people and their families, but adverse market conditions left us no choice,” said Kevin Crutchfield, CEO, Alpha. “Several mines are encountering weak demand for their products. We examined all options but in the end these operations had to do what was necessary to preserve a sustainable business plan in a challenging environment. In the days ahead, we will be examining all aspects of costs across our entire value chain, including cost reduction reviews with all key stakeholders.”
Alpha’s Central Appalachian businesses are seeing more electric utilities switch from thermal coal to natural gas to take advantage of gas prices at 10-year lows. A series of federal regulatory actions also have prompted utilities to implement plans for shutting down a number of generating stations that have traditionally run on coals sourced from Central Appalachia.