Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


July 2, 2014

Mine layoffs Local coalfield woes mounting

— It has been another difficult two weeks for the region’s embattled coal industry. About 575 coal miners at Cliff Natural Resources Pinnacle Mine could be impacted by a WARN, or Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act issued by the company last week in advance of a possible idling of the Wyoming County-based mine in late August.

The company is attributing persistent depressed pricing and over supply in the metallurgic coal market over the past year as a reason for the possible idling of the mine. Cliff spokesman Ryan Thorn says the company’s senior leadership team will closely monitor industry and business conditions over the next 60 days. If conditions do not improve during the two-month period, the mine would then be idled on Aug. 25.

But the bad news wasn’t limited just to the coalfields of southern West Virginia. Alpha Natural Resources also announced last week that it has idled its Cherokee Mine in Dickenson County in Southwest Virginia. An Alpha spokesman said the mine has about 115 employees. Of that number, about 50 will remain and work toward removing equipment and infrastructure at the mine through at least September. But the remainder of the work force — about 65 people — already have been sent home and will receive 60 days of pay until their official layoff date.

Some long-time miners in our region say they are optimistic that the coal market will rebound over the next couple of months. We, too, are cautiously optimistic. But we shouldn’t expect any help from Washington, which continues to wage a foolish war against coal. The Obama administration unleashed its latest salvo against coal last month in the form of a new rule that would set caps on carbon emissions from existing power plants.

The crippling new mandates coming out of Washington are not helping  matters at all. And area lawmakers — with the exception of  U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va. — have been inexplicably quiet during these turbulent two weeks for the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Why are they not taking immediate steps on the federal level to help those miners who are being or will soon be displaced?

Despite the recent bad news, the region’s historic coalfields — and those hard-working miners who have powered our nation for more than a generation — are resilient. We will get through the dark days ahead. In time market conditions will improve. We will persevere.

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