Alpha sends more to unemployment line

JUST weeks after announcing the closures of eight operations and furlough of more than 400 employees in Kentucky, Alpha Natural Resources has reportedly informed miners it will idle three more facilities – this time in southern West Virginia.
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Courtesy Alpha Natural Resources.

Donna Schmidt

According to local news station WOWK, the producer gave notice of closures to its crews at the Hatfield underground mine, Superior surface mine and a preparation plant in Omar, Logan County, on Wednesday.

The station attributed the news to Logan Coal Vendors Association president Jim Winkler, who told the outlet he spoke Wednesday morning with some of the newly laid-off miners.

Hatfield is a metallurgical operation, and Superior produces steam coal. The latter had been closed for three years but reopened in early 2012.

Winkler reportedly said the preparation facility had already been closed for the past few months.

ILN requested comment and more details from an Alpha spokesman, but could not confirm the total number of layoffs by press time.

The producer said earlier this month in its initial closure announcement that a mild winter, utilities switching to cheaper gas and environmental protection regulations had reduced thermal coal demand to a point where certain mines are uneconomic.

“Layoffs are an unfortunate last resort, and it’s tough for miners that want to work but are unable to because of factors beyond their control and the company's control,” it said.

“The US coal industry is confronting a ‘new normal’, and we want to be sure we have the appropriate operating model, talent and agility to not just survive but emerge a winner. That means ensuring our thermal coal assets are sustainable through the business cycle, particularly in the onerous regulatory environment we're confronting.

“It also means preserving and enhancing our valued metallurgical coal franchise, and maintaining the sound financial base we currently have as we maneuver through this tough environment.”

The mines cut in eastern Kentucky include the Voyager #7 mine (Inez); White Cabin #9 (Inez); White Oak South (Inez); Love Branch South (McAndrews); Round Bottom (Belfry); Rockhouse Energy #1 (Sidney); Solid Energy #1 (Belfry); Halfway Branch (Sidney); Fraley Branch (Sidney); the Long Fork preparation plant (Belfry); and the MCCC preparation plant (Inez).