Arch officials confirmed Thursday that Harlan County’s Lone Mountain Darby Fork Mine, which also has employees in Lee County, Va., will be closing causing 42 Harlan County employees and six Lee County, Va. employees to lose their jobs.
Arch Coal spokesperson Kim Link, from their corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., said in a press release on Thursday, “Arch Coal Inc., today announced plans to idle several operations and to reduce production at other mining complexes in Appalachia due to the unprecedented downturn in demand for coal-based electricity. Today’s actions, along with other recent changes in Appalachia, will result in a total workforce reduction of approximately 750 full-time positions.
“We deeply value our people and the decision to reduce personnel was made only after exhaustively reviewing other options and exploring opportunities to avoid this measure,” said John W. Eaves, Arch’s president and chief executive officer. “We sincerely regret the impact this announcement will have on our employees and their families as well as on the local communities where we operate. This decision was difficult but necessary in order to weather the current downturn and to position the company for long-term success.”
Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop said he was not surprised “at this moment” because he has attended Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings in Frankfort and Pikeville, rallies in Abingdon, Va., and read many articles which has helped him “put together a picture.”
“The folks against coal are gaining momentum,” said Grieshop. “Our current administration has given the EPA a lot of leeway in their monitoring of coal operations, not giving permits equally, putting a lot of pressure on conductivity and other not logic methods of evaluating a coal mining operation. Because of this, the pressure on coal is greater than it’s ever been and we’re getting hit on both ends of the spectrum — the extraction end and the burning end. I look at this picture as the bleakest picture in the history of coal mining in Harlan County.”
Congressman Hal Rogers released the following statement regarding the layoffs.
“Over the last few years, none of President Obama’s efforts to improve the economy and secure our energy future has worked. Unfortunately, he’s been all too successful at waging a job-killing war on coal,” Rogers said. “I am saddened by today’s news and the hardship these job losses will place on families and southern and eastern communities, already grappling with high unemployment and tight budgets. There’s no question a warm winter, low demand for thermal coal, and cheap natural gas prices have indeed produced setbacks for coal this year, but the Obama Administration has continually kicked the industry while it’s down and shown total disregard for the people of our region. Deadlocked mining permits, rule changes, and crippling regulations on power plants are already threatening the future of Appalachian coal. Only once this Administration ends its attacks on Kentucky’s mining families and recognizes coal is vital to our country’s energy and economic security will we have a chance to recover lost ground.”
Gov. Steve Beshear has authorized assistance.
“We are extremely disappointed and disheartened by the announcement from Arch Coal today, as we know the announcement of significant layoffs in Kentucky is devastating news for hundreds of Kentucky families,” Beshear said. “I have authorized the mobilization of our Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s Rapid Response Teams to assist these employees in the transition from their jobs to beginning a search for new work, starting new workforce training or enrolling in classes to prepare them for the next stage of their careers. These teams will also ensure the families are aware of assistance available from state and federal services during this difficult time. We will adapt the roles and services of these teams as needed to make certain that our affected families are equipped to handle this challenge.”
Arch’s subsidiaries will close three higher-cost thermal mining complexes and associated preparation plants, temporarily idle Hazard’s Flint Ridge complex and curtail production at other operations in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. The mine locations affected by the announced closings are the east Kentucky, eastern and Knott County complexes.
Arch says with these actions their thermal coal production will be reduced by more than 3 million tons annually. The company also plans to realize savings on future capital spending due to the idling of several operations and the redeployment of equipment into other active operations.
“Current market pressures and a challenging regulatory environment have pushed coal consumption in the Untied States to a 20-year low,” said Eaves. “In response, we had previously streamlined capital spending, idled equipment and reduced shift work. We now are taking further steps to enhance our competitive cost position in Appalachia, while increasingly shifting our portfolio in the region toward higher-margin metallurgical coal operations. Despite the operational changes announced today, we are still able to serve customers here and abroad with the high level of quality they have come to expect from Arch.”
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