BLUEFIELD — The 2019 Bluefield Coal Show has officially opened.

With a Media and Exhibitor Appreciation Breakfast this morning followed by the official opening of the show with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, thousands have descended on the Brushfork Armory to participate and see almost 200 exhibitors representing the coal industry with the latest in their products and innovations.

CONSOL Energy President and CEO Jimmy Brock was the keynote speaker at the breakfast and helped Daphne Peters, widow of the late Charlie Peters, the founder of the show and icon of the industry who died in May 2018, cut the ribbon.

“What a pleasure to come back to see many of old friends that I worked down here with for years,” Brock said, adding that it is also exciting to see the vendors and suppliers that are important to the coal industry as it moves forward.

Brock said the industry has heard bad news for many years but “I am here to tell you it’s not all bad,” and he outlined not only the opening of new mines but also an overall view of why coal continues to be needed and will always be a part of the electric grid as well as in the manufacturing of products.

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, was also on hand for the opening ceremonies and he said he has been to all of the Bluefield Coal Shows.

Raney said the coal show had happened before 1976 and he remembers attending as a kid with his father.

“But they stopped doing it for awhile and Charlie (Peters) brought it back,” he said. “That was a great day.”

The coal industry did see some struggles, he said, but “we are clawing our way back.”

“If we were not exporting coal we would be in trouble,” he said, adding that the state production is back to about 110 million tons. “We are the most convenient to the ports and we can get there as easily and efficiently as anyone can with our product.”

Raney said many positive things are going on in the industry, which is full of “good people, gutsy people that are willing to take the risk and make sure West Virginians are working.”

State Sen. Chandler Swope also attended the show’s opening.

“The coal show has always been one of the best events in Mercer County,” he said, adding that it was good for the local economy. “The coal industry is in much better shape than I was even aware of.”

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

Recommended for you