According to Coal Facts 2015, recently unveiled to the public, total state production for calendar year 2014 totaled 116.9 million tons; 86.8 million tons were produced underground, and surface mine crews sent 30 million tons to the stockpile.
For comparison, 1997 was the state’s last record year of production; mines extracted 181,914,600 tons during that period.
The 141 coal companies operating in West Virginia in 2014 had a staggeringly low total number of active operations — just 205 — with mining methods split just about equally. Ninety-nine were surface, while 106 were underground.
The northern region of the state also took over the top place on production totals, as Boone County was replaced by Marshall County in the No. 1 slot for both underground mining and total output. Logan was top for surface mining production, and Boone County was top for employment with 2,215. Boone also remains tops in total reserves with 3.58 billion tons.
The largest underground mine in 2014 was Murray Energy’s Marshall County mine, which had a total 10.3 million tons mined by its crews (it also had the single largest employment of 1,035). The largest surface mine was Phoenix Coal-Mac Mining’s Holden 22 complex with 2.75 million tons.
Total employment in 2014 revealed some sobering numbers. Of the total 18,159 with mining jobs at an average $71,600, a little more than 4,000 were surface workers. The remainder, 14,073, worked underground. Another 28,940 were contractors and 1,940 operated prep facilities, making for a total gross employment figure of 49,039.
Even with losses across the board, the state was able to reap some benefits financially. West Virginia’s estimated production value for 2014 may have totaled $7.35 billion, but coal severance taxes received from that equated to $407 million.
Across the U.S., per the report and citing both state and federal data, the nation’s mines produced a total 984.8 million tons. Most of that production — a little more than 641 million tons — was produced from surface mines, and 341.6 million tons were extracted from underground operations.
The total number of active mines in the U.S. over the last year parallels those results, with 395 of the total 1,061 mines producing using underground methods. Surface mines accounted for about 60% of the tally at 637.
Coal Fact 2015 can be reviewed in its entirety at http://www.wvcoal.com/docs/Coal%20Facts%202015.pdf.