Robert E. Murray, the company’s founder and namesake, misses few opportunities to blame the Obama administration’s “war on coal” for shrinking coal production and demand as many electric utilities have retired older coal-fired generating units rather than spend the money necessary on environmental upgrades to meet new EPA regulations.
According to Gary Broadbent, MEC assistant general counsel and media director and also spokesman for St. Louis-based Foresight, this year’s 53-million-ton projection includes 3 million tons from Murray Colombian Resources Inc.’s operation in the South American country.
Later this year, Murray plans to close two underground mines, New Era in Illinois and Powhatan No. 6 in Ohio, that have been major producers for the company in the past. In 2014, New Era produced 5.5 million tons of coal, making it one of Illinois’ largest underground mines. But Murray’s American Coal Co. subsidiary, which operates the two-mine Galatia complex in Saline County, is shifting production to the lower-cost New Future mine. In Belmont County, Ohio, another Murray subsidiary, Ohio Valley Coal Co., intends to cease production in November at the Powhatan No. 6 mine because its high-sulfur coal reserves finally have played out after nearly 50 years.
New Era produced 939,591 tons of coal in the first quarter of 2016 while Powhatan turned out 1.2 million tons, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. In 2013, Powhatan produced 5.5 million tons.
New Era and New Future are non-union operations while Powhatan’s hourly employees are represented by the United Mine Workers of America. The union said it is negotiating with Murray in hopes of preserving the jobs of as many Powhatan miners as possible at other Murray operations.