Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 31, 2012

Big headlines tell the stories of 2012


BLUEFIELD — 5. Murder suspect hangs himself in Bluefield City Jail.

October 1 turned out to be a sad day in Bluefield as a well-respected U.S. Army veteran, Doug Watkins, was killed and his wife, Monika Watkins, was shot, had her throat cut and was beaten nearly to death by a neighbor who later admitted that his rage was fueled by his addiction to crack cocaine.

Donald Adams, 54, of Bluefield, gained entry into the Watkins’ home on Burton Street, shot and killed Doug Watkins, attacked Monika Watkins, left her for dead, stole about $200 from the home and fled. Police took him into custody a few hours after the home invasion.

During his initial appearance in magistrate court, Adams confessed his guilt. After that hearing, he told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and other media reporters that he wished West Virginia still had the death penalty, and he would probably deserve it. Adams took his own life while being held in the Bluefield City Jail awaiting transport to the Southern Regional Jail.

Monika Watkins was unconscious for 18 days, but on Oct. 19, she regained consciousness and was able to return home within another two weeks and was able to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

Hundreds of coal mining jobs lost in the region, presidential election viewed as turning point for industry.

6. The year 2012 will not be remembered as a particularly good year for the region’s coal industry. Hundreds of miners were displaced during the year by mine closures and idlings, and the industry’s hope of electing a pro-coal president — Republican Mitt Romney — were crushed by the commanding re-election victory of President Barack Obama. Obama’s re-election was made possible once again by the Commonwealth of Virginia, while West Virginia overwhelmingly voted in support of Romney.

In the Mountain State, an estimated 4,740 miners had sought unemployment benefits since Jan. 1. Many laid off miners opted not to file any claims, choosing instead to retire or seek work in another industry, Russell Fry, acting executive director of WorkForce West Virginia, told the Associated Press earlier in the year.

Consol Energy told another 145 workers in southern West Virginia that it would start laying them off in late December because of a dispute over permits for surface mining related to the King Coal Highway project. The Pittsburgh-based coal producer said it decided to idle its Miller Creek operations in Mingo County, which include Wiley Surface Mine, Wiley Creek Surface Mine, Minway Surface Mine, Minway Preparation Plant, and Miller Creek Administration Group. Consol had sought U.S. Environmental Protection Agency permits to redirect the Mingo County operations to mine land that would then become a five-mile stretch of the King Coal Highway.

The news was equally troubling in Southwest Virginia where hundreds of miners also were laid off. Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources announced it was cutting production by 16-million tons and eliminating 1,200 jobs company wide, laying off 400 workers immediately by closing mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In all, the layoffs amounted to nearly a tenth of Alpha’s 13,000-person workforce. The company said it was closing four mines in West Virginia, three in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania. The impacted mines were a mix of deep and surface mines, and all are non-union operations.

About 400 of the 606 miners who were temporarily laid off in September at Consol Energy’s Buchanan Mine returned to work in early November. However, another 190 production and maintenance employees did not return to the Buchanan County mine, Consol spokeswoman Cathy St. Clair said. She added, the company would work to reassign those 190 employees, as well as some salaried employees, to other Consol mines.

Pittsburgh-based Consol idled the Southwest Virginia mine in early September due to a decline in global steel demand. Both mines produced metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel.

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