The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

September 17, 2013

James River idles Kentucky mines, cuts 525 workers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A major coal producer is idling several eastern Kentucky mines and laying off 525 full-time workers, blaming continued weak coal markets.

James River Coal of Richmond, Va., is laying off workers at mines in five eastern Kentucky counties: the McCoy Elkhorn complex in Pike and Floyd counties; the Bledsoe complex in Leslie and Harlan counties; and the Long Branch Surface mine in London.

The state’s Appalachian region in eastern Kentucky has a long history of coal production, but in recent years weak demand, low natural gas prices and stricter federal regulations have hurt mine production.

The slowdown has forced companies to idle mines and lay off workers by the hundreds in eastern Kentucky. The region lost about 4,000 mining jobs in 2012, according to data compiled by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

James River said in a statement the restart of the mines is subject to market conditions.

Republican and Democrat candidates for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race seized on news of the layoffs Tuesday, saying they are the result of regulatory overreach by the Obama administration.

“The President is leading a war on coal and what that really means for Kentucky families is a war on jobs,” Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, said in a written statement. McConnell said President Obama’s jobs proposals are not helping workers in the eastern Kentucky region.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Secretary of State who is running for the Democratic nomination in the Senate race, said the president needs to develop an environmental policy “that does not threaten Kentuckians’ livelihoods.”

“I will not stand idle as overreaching regulation adversely impacts jobs and middle class families,” Grimes said in a written statement.

Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, acknowledged that lower natural gas prices and a slow market are hurting production in eastern Kentucky, but said Obama administration policies are also to blame. He said the administration’s policy of enhanced scrutiny of mining permits has disproportionately affected the central Appalachian region, which includes eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.

“There definitely seems to be a scrutiny and focus on eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, more so than any other coalfield or region,” Bissett said. “I hear that time and time again, especially from people that operate in multiple states. And like it or not, that has a chilling effect, not only on the folks who are there, but also on the ones who might (open a mine) there.”

An earnings report last month from James River said its coal sales revenue for operations in central Appalachia totaled $123 million for the quarter that ended on June 30, compared to $233 million for the same period in 2012. The company mines thermal coal for power generation and metallurgical coal used to produce steel. It also has operations in southern West Virginia and southern Indiana.

The company also idled several mines and reduced production at others in March.

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • twv twins One Hatfield, two actors

    If you shake hands with the cast and crew at Theatre West Virginia after the show, don’t worry if you think you’re seeing double.
    Jacob and James Cline, 12-year-old twins, are a part of the team this year, assisting  with props and portraying Little Troy Hatfield.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Construction begins on Meadow River Rail Trail

    Construction has finally begun on the Meadow River Rail Trail, a recreation project undertaken in a unique partnership between Greenbrier and Fayette counties.

    July 25, 2014

  • AARP reps talk future of Social Security

    The future of Social Security was on the menu at a listening session staged Thursday by AARP West Virginia at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

    July 25, 2014

  • Juvenile petitions sought against teens in Mount Hope B&Es

    The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department is filing juvenile petitions against two Page-area teens after two businesses in the Mount Hope area were broken into early Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • US issues 186 mining citations in June

    The Mine Safety and Health Administration says inspectors issued 186 citations at 13 U.S. mining operations in June.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed after Dirty Girl Run canceled

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn't be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • Juveniles caught after breaking and entering in Fayette

    The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department is filing juvenile petitions against two teens from the Page area after two businesses in the Mount Hope area were broken into.

    July 24, 2014

  • Saints arrive 1 Saints march into ‘Almost Heaven, W.Va.’

    At 3:54 p.m. Wednesday afternoon the New Orleans Saints’ chartered flight touched the ground at the Greenbrier Valley Airport, and Greenbrier County officially became “Who Dat?” Country. INCLUDES TOUT VIDEO.

    July 24, 2014 3 Photos

  • Broadband panel eyes access to rural areas

    The West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council met far outside its typical Charleston venue Wednesday to hear issues about Internet speeds in some of the state’s most rural regions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lewisburg official says fuel spill contained, drinking water safe

    Lewisburg’s public works director is confident that a Tuesday afternoon fuel spill 60 miles upriver from the city water system’s intake has been contained and the water is safe to drink.

    July 24, 2014