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UPDATE: Alpha Closing 8 Mines in Three States, Four in W.Va.; Employees Respond

By: Brooks Jarosz, Anna Baxter, Alex Snyder, The Associated Press Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, Anna Baxter, Alex Snyder, The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 9/18/12 @ 10:55 p.m.
PUTNAM COUNTY, W. Va. (WSAZ) -- Bobby Ferrell is smiling and happy. Deep inside, though, it’s a whole other story.

"How am I going to put food on the table? How am I going to put shoes on my kids' feet? It's absolutely nerve-wracking,” said Bobby Ferrell, a coal miner with Alpha.

Ferrell is a coal miner, a husband, a father of four and, maybe, unemployed.

"Everybody is on eggshells waiting," he said.

He works for Alpha and just learned the company is idling four mines in West Virginia, sending hundreds of workers to the unemployment lines.

But Ferrell doesn’t know if he’ll be one of those unfortunate ones.

"So, I may be currently unemployed, I might have a job tomorrow, I don't know. It's still up in the air; we don't have no idea," he said.

The same goes for Linda Dials’ husband, James, who also works for Alpha. Linda has no idea if he’ll even have job to go to tomorrow.

"Waiting on a phone call -- very anxious, very heavy hearted," Linda Dials said. "Your heart races, but it's so heavy because even if it's not us and we're safe this time, probably some other friends aren't. Some of our friends will get it -- and it's depressing, it's depressing."

But what’s worse is knowing that her husband’s job is never safe.

"You hope that you make it through this round," she said. "You don't know if there will be a next round. You don't know if you make it through this round and you're not one that goes this time. Within the end of the first quarter, are you going to be one of the ones that don't have a job, one of the families that are left without again?"



UPDATE 9/18/12 @ 4:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Alpha Natural Resources reported Tuesday that it's eliminating 1,200 jobs company-wide, including 400 with the immediate closing of eight mines in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield says the layoffs begin with the mine shutdowns Tuesday.

Crutchfield also confirms to WSAZ.com four of the eight mines closing are in West Virginia.

Just after 5 p.m., the company released the four mines closing in West Virginia.
-Alloy deep mine, near Alloy, WV - Fayette County
-Alloy surface mine, near Boomer, WV – Fayette County
-Premium highwall mine, near Gilbert, WV – Mingo County
-White Flame surface mine, near Varney, WV – Mingo County

Crutchfield calls it a difficult decision but says it's a necessary part of shifting business away from U.S. power plants and toward overseas steel mills.

"Unfortunately what you have to do sometimes is take measures -- close coal mines that don't have any prospects in the near term and that's what we did today," Crutchfield said. "The steps we've taken today are adequate and you certainly hope you don't have to undergo more of this in the future but the market is going to be what it's going to be and we can't control it. All we can control is how we treat one another, the safety and performance of our coal mines, how we activate capital and pulling every lever available to us to make sure we maintain our own viability through difficult times. But we're confident the steps we took today put us on that path forward but we'll just have to see how the marketplace evolves in the coming months and years."

During a phone interview Tuesday, Crutchfield blamed the layoffs on cheap natural gas prices stealing market share away from coal and aggressive regulations by the EPA.

Right now, Alpha wants to reposition the company by following a three point plan. First, sharpening its focus on its metallurgical coal franchise. Secondly, repositioning and reducing its thermal coal franchise to make it more competitive in a smaller U.S. Market. Finally, streamlining its overhead and administrative staff by the end of the first quarter of 2013.

Crutchfield says they will try to help miners find work somewhere else in the company or at another mine. They will also offer miners severance packages to soften the burden on them.

"Nothing is more difficult than influencing the livelihood of good men and good women who are trying to earn an honest living. It's something I take very seriously," Crutchfield said.

In West Virginia, 2,646 miners have been laid off since the beginning of this year, according to West Virginia Department of Commerce.

More than 250 have been laid off since the beginning of July. That number doesn't include this recent layoffs at Alpha.

"That's where these people want to be and they're the best coal miners in the whole world and they certainly ought to be working because we're providing the coal to make the electricity and it's devastating to these communities. We hope things will begin to get turned around as we get toward the end of the year," Bill Raney, West Virginia Coal Association President said. "We're trying to do everything we can to keep the people working, the companies are doing everything they can to move people to other operations to try to make sure they keep these skilled miners in place."

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WSAZ & AP) -- Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources says it's eliminating 1,200 jobs companywide, including 400 with the immediate closing of eight mines in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield says the layoffs begin with the mine shutdowns Tuesday.

The rest will come by the end of the first quarter.

Crutchfield calls it a difficult decision but says it's a necessary part of shifting business away from U.S. power plants and toward overseas steel mills.

“We’re taking a long-term view of the thermal coal market, and we believe there are solid opportunities for diversified suppliers like Alpha to produce and sell thermal coal profitably into a smaller domestic market and to customers in new markets overseas,” Crutchfield added. “At the same time we have a big opportunity to advance Alpha’s position as a premier supplier of metallurgical coal. Forecasts point to more than 100 million tons of increased seaborne metallurgical coal demand by the end of this decade, and persistent structural supply limitations exist on sources of high-quality metallurgical coal. We intend to participate meaningfully in the market upside with costs that are globally competitive.”

Virginia-based Alpha will shift its focus from thermal coal, used in domestic power generation to metallurgical coal used in steelmaking.

Crutchfield also cites what he calls "a regulatory environment that's aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal."

He says the new business strategy will cut production by 16 million tons by early 2013.

The company is not releasing the mines affected by this announcement.

A company spokesperson tells WSAZ.com workers are being notified of the layoffs and mine closures during their shift Tuesday.

The company is expected to release more information this afternoon once employees have been notified.

In West Virginia, 2,646 miners have been laid off since the beginning of this year, according to West Virginia Department of Commerce.

More than 250 have been laid off since the beginning of July. That number doesn't include this recent layoffs at Alpha.

"That's where these people want to be and they're the best coal miners in the whole world and they certainly ought to be working because we're providing the coal to make the electricity and it's devastating to these communities. We hope things will begin to get turned around as we get toward the end of the year," Bill Raney, West Virginia Coal Association President said. "We're trying to do everything we can to keep the people working, the companies are doing everything they can to move people to other operations to try to make sure they keep these skilled miners in place."

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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