SOPHIA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A mine that's been closed for more than two decades has come back to life and brought hundreds of jobs and a big investment to the Mountain State.
Affinity Mine had its first trainload of coal leaving the mine Wednesday afternoon shortly following a ribbon cutting ceremony.
"It's exhilarating," United Coal President & CEO Michael Zervos said. "We worked long and hard to make this happen and seeing the first train go out of here is wonderful."
It's an $11 million investment by Affinity Coal Company, a subsidiary of United Coal, located in the town of Sophia.
"I never thought I would see this Affinity mine open once it closed," Sophia Mayor Danny Barr said. "But ever since the talk about the mine reopening -- activity started picking up in Sophia. The housing industry is starting to boom in Sophia, and also you can't find a rental property in Sophia because of this mine."
Barr added, "We're tickled to death that they're down here."
The mine is now fully operational and employs more than 250 miners and administrative staff.
"Here again West Virginia's coal miners -- the best in the world -- are going to serve the world," West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said. "This is great confidence in West Virginia."
In addition, more than 1,000 indirect jobs are a result of the mine.
A new state-of-the-art preparation plant has been built, and the first few loads of coal were loaded into train cars.
Affinity Coal Company saw this mine's potential. It has a rare form of coal known as metallurgical.
Most of the coal mined at Affinity will be shipped overseas to the Ukraine and Europe and converted into coke -- used to produce steel.
"We are supplying the coal from West Virginia that keeps the lights on," Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. "We're supplying the coal to make steel that's building our ships, our automobiles and coal is a real necessary commodity."
It's a major boost to West Virginia's economy and a confidence booster for coal supporters.
"This is a 25-year opportunity to build in my hometown community of Coal City," miner Mark Bolen said. "I'm really excited about the job potential. I'm really excited about all the effects we can have good in this area."
Bolen added, "I'm a lifetime resident here. This is home. It's good to have this facility at home; it's good to have this investment here at home."
Affinity says it is in the process of building another mining facility in Randolph and Upshur counties, which will bring additional mining jobs to the state.