Alpha's idle plan moving forward

ALPHA Natural Resources has reportedly closed the doors on its Coalgood Energy complex in Kentucky for good and while a relatively small crew of 25 has been furloughed, it is just another bruise for an already beaten industry.
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Photo courtesy Alpha Natural Resources.

Donna Schmidt

Even before Alpha’s announcement of 1200 layoffs and eight Appalachian mine closures in September, the company first confirmed in February that it would furlough 320 workers and slice 4 million tons of output – including the Coalgood Energy subsidiary.

Alpha spokesman Rick Nida told local newspaper the Harlan Daily Enterprise that, like so many other mines, Coalgood was idled due to the thermal coal market environment.

“The property is in reclamation right now and they are about to finish up,” he said.

“The property is being returned to its approximate original condition or for whatever use the permit said the final use would be after the mine has been completed and reclaimed. You have to return the land for that use.”

For Harlan County where the complex is located, along with the sister mines of Alpha’s Black Mountain Resources, it exacerbates an already open wound caused by layoffs, mine closures and production cutbacks across the coal industry.

“One [of the causes for the market] is the low price of natural gas," Nida told the paper.

“There has been some fuel switching. If the price of natural gas goes back up then switching may go back in the other direction.”

The firing upon coal-fired power plants is also at the center of the problem.

Unfortunately, he told the Daily Enterprise, it was unlikely the Coalgood miners would be able to find other Alpha jobs.

“Throughout the system we've had some reductions in force and some employees have been reassigned. I don't believe that is the case at Coalgood Energy,” he said.

ILN requested more details about the status of equipment removal and the timeline for other mines on its closure list but Nida did not respond Friday.

In addition to Coalgood, Alpha’s February idling list included Cave Spur Coal No. 1 in Harlan County, the No. 2 Gas underground mine in Kanawha County, West Virginia and the Inman Energy Randolph operation in Boone County, West Virginia.

Among those suffering cutbacks are Stillhouse Mining’s Mine No. 1 or Perkins Branch, Enterprise Mining’s Big Branch West, Run Creek Coal Sales’ Camp Branch, Mammoth Coal’s Alloy Powellton and Progress Coal’s Twilight mine.

The producer made the landmark announcement in mid-September that it would reduce its workforce by an additional 1200 – essentially 9% of its payroll company-wide – and halt mining at eight thermal mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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