Kentucky’s coal production and employment both dropped during the third quarter of this year, and once again the state’s eastern coalfields recorded the biggest loss, according to the latest quarterly coal report.
From the second to third quarter of this year, Kentucky saw coal production drop 5 percent and shed 439 jobs. But the losses weren’t consistent across both ends of the state. Both production and jobs stayed nearly the same in Western Kentucky, while Eastern Kentucky recorded declines.
This report is the latest in a series that shows a negative trend in the state’s eastern coalfields. Coal mines have been shutting down or furloughing workers in record numbers…most recently, James River Coal announced it would close all of its mines in Eastern Kentucky, laying off 525 miners. During the second quarter, the state Energy and Environment Cabinet said Kentucky’s coal employment was at the lowest level since 1927; earlier this year, the state’s coal production was at the lowest level since 1965.
The weak demand for that region’s coal will likely continue. As Appalachian coal reserves get harder to reach, they’re more expensive to mine and new environmental regulations and inexpensive natural gas prices have prompted many utilities to switch away from burning coal.