Alpha Natural Resources Will Lay Off 200 Coal Miners in Eastern Kentucky

Coal company Alpha Natural Resources announced today it will idle four underground mines in Harlan and Letcher counties. Two hundred miners will lose their jobs, while about sixty people will be moved to other positions or other mines.

From Alpha:

Today, we told employees that we are idling four underground thermal mines in Kentucky. This decision is part of an ongoing effort to ensure the future success and growth of Alpha in a challenging time for the coal industry. In September, we announced we would be making changes across our organization – including our headquarters. Since then, we have been streamlining our operations, consolidating our geographic regions from four to two, and initiating some organizational changes to support our operations better, so they can operate more efficiently and better manage costs.

The mines that will be idled are the Cloverlick #1 and #3 mines in Cumberland, the Panther Mine near Cumberland and the North Fork #4 Mine in Partridge. All are thermal coal mines–the coal mined there is used in power plants–and all were legacy operations from Massey Energy. Alpha purchased Massey in 2011, but the company stresses there’s no connection between the mines’ past owner and the decision to idle the mines.

Alpha Natural Resources reported a $2 billion loss in the second quarter of 2012. In September, the company announced it would shed 1200 jobs in an effort to become more competitive. These 200 jobs are part of that.

Alpha spokeswoman Samantha Davison says a combination of market conditions, lower demand for coal and new environmental regulations left the company little choice.

“This is unlike anything we have ever seen, nor could we have predicted that all of this would have happened,” she said. “In an effort to be proactive, we’re trying to make these moves, and anytime you let somebody go, it’s absolutely the worst thing. It’s not what we want to do, but it’s something we feel like we have to do.”

The Eastern Kentucky coal industry was hit hard by layoffs in 2012. In February, 168 were laid off when Alpha idled or reduced production at several mines. In June, the company closed four mines and 150 miners lost their jobs. That same month, Arch Coal announced plans to lay off 500 miners. In October, Alpha closed another mine and laid off 40 miners.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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