The wave of mine closures and layoffs in the coal industry continued Thursday as the North Fork Number 7 Mine in Letcher County, located near the Harlan County line, closed its doors leaving 25 coal miners without jobs.
Officials from Alpha Natural Resources Inc., headquartered in Bristol, Va., confirmed the mine has been “idled.”
“North Fork Number 7 is being idled and 25 employees were terminated today. There are another 20 who will perform the idling work at the mine or will be transferred to North Fork Number 6, located both in Letcher County and Wise County, Va.”
Alpha officials said the closing of the mine is “market driven.”
“It’s just not sustainable with market conditions that are continuing to deteriorate. North Fork Number 7 Mine produced metallurgical coal, which is used to produce steel, and the price of metallurgical coal has just decreased steadily. There is just no sign of meaningful improvement in the price right now.”
When asked if ANR has plans to reopen the mine in the future, officials said, “Not at this time.”
North Fork Number 7 Mine began operations last year. Officials from ANR said “it was not mined a full year.”
“If it had run for a full year it would have produced about 200,000 tons of coal. The mine is actually operated by North Fork Coal Corp. in Letcher County, which is a affiliate of ANR.”
“The loss of these jobs will be difficult,” ANR officials said. “When a mine operator has to make a choice like this it impacts men and women who work very hard and their families. But, in a market we are currently experiencing it’s sadly necessary.”
Alpha Natural Resources is a large American producer of metallurgical coal for the industrial production of steel and iron and low-sulfur thermal coal to fuel steam boilers for the production of electrical power. The company also provides industry services relating to equipment repairs, road construction and logistics with domestic operations and coal reserves within the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Utah, Illinois, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Alpha Natural Resources doesn’t produce all of the coal it sells; much of the coal sold by Alpha Natural Resources is purchased from independent mining operations and then resold in the worldwide market.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde