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Alpha to close eight mines in West Virginia

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World Coal,

US coal miner, Alpha Natural Resources, which is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, plans to close eight mines in West Virginia, according to WARN Act Notices issued to workers at the mines. The closure of the mines will result in the loss of 886 jobs at Alpha’s Marfork Coal Co., Elk Run Coal Co, and Maxxim Shared Services subsidiaries.

In the WARN Act Notice, the company blamed “current adverse market conditions” for the decision to close the mines, adding that the job losses were expected to take place on – or within two weeks of – 25 March and be permanent.

The WARN – or Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification – Act was passed in 1988 and requires companies to give 60 days notice in advance of plant closures and mass layoffs covered under the act. Notices are provided to the affected workers or unions, the state dislocated worker unit and the appropriate unit of local government.

The mines affected are the Roundbottom Powellton, Hunter Peerless, Seng Creek Powellton, Brushy Eagle, Slip Ridge Cedar Creek, Horse Creek Eagle, Allen Powellton and Coon Cedar Grove. The Marfork and Chess processing plants will also close. The facilities are all located around the towns of Beckley, Whitesville, Madison and Sylvester in Raleigh and Boone counties in the south of the state.

The news will come as a further blow to a region that has been the hardest hit by the downturn in the US coal industry. According to recent US Energy Information Administration figures, coal production in Central Appalachia was 40% below its 2010 – 2014 average in 2015: the largest fall recorded among US coal basins and a result of its difficult mining geology and high operating costs. Meanwhile, prices for Central Appalachian coal fell 22%, following a 13% fall in 2014.

The EIA expects US coal production to total 900 million short t in 2015, 10% lower than 2014 and the lowest level since 1986 on the back of low domestic gas prices, weak international demand and an increase to environmental regulations.

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