Tomblin's fighting words over coal jobs

WEST Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has vowed to “keep up the fight” for the state’s mining jobs after Patriot Coal notified employees of potential lay-offs at its Corridor G complex in Boone County.

Anthony Barich

At the same time, Tomblin backed coal as “the most cost effective and reliable source” of power for the nation’s recovering manufacturing sector.

Yesterday Patriot gave 60 days notice of potential lay-offs to all employees that could be affected by the company further reducing thermal coal production.

"The combination of increasing Environmental Protection Agency regulations, mild summer weather and low natural gas prices has resulted in thermal coal pricing at levels below operating costs at many Appalachian mines," Patriot president and CEO Bennett K Hatfield said.

"Over the next two months, Corridor G management will further evaluate operations and staffing to assess their ability to produce coal at lower costs and determine the extent of actions to be taken.

“We deeply regret the impact these actions will have on our hard-working employees and neighbouring communities."

The Corridor G complex, which includes the Hobet 21 mine and Beth Station preparation plant, employs 360 people and produced 2.3 million short tons of thermal coal in 2013.

Tomblin called Patriot’s announcement of potential lay-offs at Hobet 21 and Beth Station “more tragic news” for the miners and their families.

“We continue to hold out hope that the end result is not as severe as [the] announcement, however, we are committed to providing workforce training, continuing education opportunities and other assistance our miners and their families may need during this unfortunate time,” he said.

"We recognise market trends can play a part in these potential closures, however, these trends also reflect the regulatory environment in which industry must operate.

“We continue our fight for West Virginia's mining jobs and urge the EPA to reconsider its proposed plan and realise the real impact their proposed CO2 rules would have on West Virginia miners, their families and our communities.

“As our national economy grows and more manufacturers expand operations, the use of electricity will rise as well and West Virginia coal remains the most cost-effective, reliable source of that power."

Patriot, a producer and marketer of coal in the eastern US, has 10 active mining complexes in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin.

It ships to domestic and international electricity generators, industrial users and metallurgical coal customers and controls approximately 1.8 billion short tons of proven and probable coal reserves.

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