Two operating affiliates of Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. have notified their employees today that certain West Virginia coal mines are being idled due to sustained weak market conditions and federal government regulations that have challenged the entire Central Appalachian mining industry.
In accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, notice has been given to approximately 91 Highland Mining Company employees, advising them of the expected idling of Highland Mining's Superior, North, and Trace Fork surface mines, and a reduction in workforce at its Reylas and Freeze Fork surface mines. The affected mines are located in Logan and Mingo Counties, West Virginia. In addition, seven workers with Rum Creek Coal's Anna Branch reclamation unit, working at the affected mines, will also be displaced.
Approximately 25 percent of the affected workers will continue to perform reclamation work as three of the operations wind down to an idle state. The mine idlings and workforce reduction are expected to be completed by mid-April.
These actions are being triggered by persistent weakness in U.S. and overseas coal demand and depressed price levels, along with regulatory pressures contributing to the premature retirement of coal-fired power plants across the nation. Excess supply of coal worldwide also has contributed to falling coal prices.
Alpha Chairman and CEO Kevin Crutchfield emphasized the continued need to adjust to challenged market conditions. "We made a short term decision in November to keep these mines operating as existing coal supply contracts were being fulfilled," Crutchfield said. "Unfortunately, despite the hard work of these operations to reduce costs in this unprecedented business climate, prices remain depressed and current coal supply simply exceeds demand."
The mines that are being idled produced 1.5 million tons of thermal coal in 2014.
"These actions are consistent with steps that we've taken in the past to build a smaller but more sustainable portfolio of mining assets across our operational footprint," Crutchfield added. "We are confident that a portion of the displaced miners will be able to fill available positions at other Alpha-affiliated mines."