Coal mine layoffs hit Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia

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Four different Murray Energy affiliates announced May 22 a massive series of coal mine layoffs as the Ohio-based company adjusts to market conditions, including the ongoing closure of coal-fired power plants due to the federal Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS).

Murray American Energy noted that it has had 4,000 employees at its West Virginia mines, which was about 400 more jobs than existed at the time of the December 2013 acquisition of these mines from Consol Energy. These longwall-equipped mines work the high-sulfur Pittsburgh coal seam.

"We regret that, due to the vastly increased use of natural gas in the Ohio Valley area to generate electricity, the ongoing destruction of the United States coal industry by President Barack Obama, and the excessive coal severance tax in the State of West Virginia, workforce reductions and operational changes have been forced upon the Company," it said.

The following employment changes are required at this time:

•Marshall County Coal Co. – 261 hourly and 98 salaried positions must be eliminated. There are still 794 jobs at this mine. This twin-longwall operation was known as McElroy under Consol.

•Marion County Coal Co. – 171 hourly and 45 salaried positions must be eliminated. There are still 476 jobs at this mine. This mine was known as Loveridge under Consol.

•Ohio County Coal Co. – 123 hourly and 23 salaried positions must be eliminated. There are still 537 jobs at this mine. This mine was known as Shoemaker under Consol.

•Harrison County Coal Co. – 92 hourly and 16 salaried positions must be eliminated. There are still 553 jobs at this mine. This was known as the Robinson Run mine under Consol.

•Monongalia County Coal Co. – Notices have been sent to employees that the Monongalia County Mine, indicating that the mine will be idled and certain of the 589 employees will be laid off for an indefinite period of time, effective July 21, 2015. This mine was known as Blacksville No. 2 under Consol.

Another Murray Energy company, American Energy, which has directly employed 650 people in the state of Ohio, announced that it must lay off 98 hourly and 10 salaried positions, effective immediately. American Energy’s Century Mine, a longwall operation that also works the Pittsburgh coal seam, will continue to employ 542 individuals.

Ohio Valley Coal, which is the operation that Murray Energy founder Bob Murray started his company with years ago, which has directly employed 740 people in the state of Ohio, said that it has been forced to make some additional workforce reductions. Ohio Valley has laid off 131 hourly and 10 salaried positions, effective immediately. The company operates a longwall-equipped mine working the Pittsburgh seam. Ohio Valley will continue to employ 599 individuals.

American Coal, which has directly employed 833 people in the state of Illinois at the Galatia longwall mine complex, said it has been forced to make some workforce reductions. American Coal has laid off 142 hourly and 20 salaried positions, effective immediately. American Coal will continue to employ 671 individuals.

This comes at a time when the U.S. coal industry is under long-standing stress from a prolonged down market due to factors like clean-air restrictions for coal-fired power plants. American Electric Power, for example, is about to shut a number of coal-fired units in states like Ohio and West Virginia due to MATS. FirstEnergy is in the midst of a series of coal plant shutdowns due to similar factors.

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