Ohio's coal see-saw

A REPORT from Ohio officials has confirmed that while production slipped slightly in 2011, coal industry employment rose.
Ohio's coal see-saw Ohio's coal see-saw Ohio's coal see-saw Ohio's coal see-saw Ohio's coal see-saw

An Ohio underground operation, courtesy Ohio Coal Association.

Donna Schmidt

Coal producers in the state say uncertainly in the market is still ahead.

In the annual 2011 Report on Ohio Mineral Industries, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological Survey said production in 2011 dropped 1.5% over 2010 but still remained above historical levels.

At the same time, employment in the state’s coal industry over the same period was as high as it had been since 2000, and the value of Ohio coal increased again for the fifth straight year.

But all that may mean is that the bad times are still to come.

Following the report’s release, Oxford Resource Partners president and chief executive officer Chuck Ungurean told the Lancaster Eagle Gazette that the coal industry was on the edge of the proverbial cliff.

“I would say it’s definitely not going to go up, employment or production [this year],” he said.

“I think we’re going to be lucky to stay where we’re at [in 2012].”

While he told the paper that Oxford, the state’s third-largest coal employer, had no layoff plans, Ohio had not been immune to the trend. Just one day after US President Barack Obama was re-elected in November, Ohio-based Murray Energy announced the furlough of nearly 160 of its miners.

According to US Energy Information Administration data, Ohio is the third-largest coal consumer in the nation, and 72% of its energy in August alone was generated by coal-fired plants.

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