Alpha to lay off 1,100 workers, mothball 11 coal mines in the US

Alpha to lay off 1,100 workers, mothball 11 coal mines in the US

WV Coal Miner Memorial, by Jimmy Emerson, DVM.

The U.S. second largest coal producer Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) announced that it is planning to idle 11 West Virginia surface coal mines and lay off about 1,100 workers by mid-October, citing weak market conditions and increased government regulation.

Notice was given to the workers yesterday, the Virginia-based miner said in a statement.

The move dealt another blow to Appalachia's iconic, but declining, fossil fuel industry. An SNL Energy analysis of average coal employment data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration last months showed that the average employee count at the country’s coal mines was 76,012, the lowest level since early 2009.

Most of these jobs have been lost in West Virginia, which sits at the heart of coal country, and it is one of the three poorest states by household income.  Official figures also show the state gets 95% of its power from the fossil fuel.

The company also said 2015 industry forecasts show Central Appalachian coal production will be less than half of its 2009 output.

Alpha’s affected mines produced 4.2 million tons of thermal and metallurgical coal through the first half of this year.

“These actions are being triggered by persistent weakness in U.S. and overseas coal demand and depressed price levels, along with government regulations that are causing electric utilities to close coal-fired power plants and forgo new construction,” the company said.

The firm added it has idled about 35 million tons of coal production in just three years, mainly operations with the highest cash costs.

Alpha is scheduled to report its second-quarter earnings on Aug. 6.

Image via Flickr Commons.