CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Alpha Natural Resources announced late Friday evening coal production will be reduced at mines in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Approximately 320 employees will be affected.
According to a press release from Alpha, subsidiaries in Kentucky and West Virginia will idle four mines immediately and two others between now and early 2013. At several other mines, work schedules will be altered or the number of crews will be reduced.
Ten mining operations are affected total.
In West Virginia, WSAZ.com has learned the #2 Gas mine in Kanawha County and the Randolph Mine in Boone County are being idled immediately. Both are underground.
The Black Castle surface mine and the Progress/Twilight surface mine in Boone County and the Camp Branch surface mine in Logan County are all reducing work schedules. The Alloy Powellton mine in Fayette County is eliminating one underground section.
Alpha Officials tell WSAZ.com while the production adjustments will displace 152 people in West Virginia, the company has had success finding other job opportunities for workers elsewhere in Alpha's mine network. Officials say they've been able to offer job opportunities to 182 other people at the impacted operations -- more than have been displaced.
In eastern Kentucky, the Cave Spur and Perkins Branch underground mines are idled immediately. Both are in Harlan County. The Coalgood surface mine in Harlan County will be phased out by the middle of this year, and the Big Branch West surface mine in Knott County will close in early 2013.
Displaced workers were given two months of continued wages and benefits to help them through the transition, according to Alpha.
According to the press release from Alpha Natural Resources, the cutbacks are being blamed on market conditions and decreased coal demand. The company says they are seeing more electric utilities switch from thermal coal to natural gas -- taking advantage of natural gas prices which are at a 10-year low.
When completed, officials at Alpha expect the changes to reduce annual coal production by approximately 4 million tons. The total includes 2.5 million tons of thermal coal and 1.5 million tons of lower quality, high-volatility metallurgical coal.
Eastern Kentucky operations will scale back thermal coal production by about 1.5 million tons, the company said, while the remaining reductions will occur in southern West Virginia.