Updated Tue, Sep 18, 2012 5:01 pm
Alpha Natural Resources reported Tuesday that it's eliminating 1,200 jobs company-wide, including 400 with the immediate closing of eight mines in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The decision comes as Alpha shifts its business away from U.S. power plants and toward overseas steel mills.
Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield says the layoffs begin with the mine shutdowns Tuesday.
Crutchfield also confirms to WSAZ.com four of the eight mines closing are in West Virginia. The company will not release what mines because not all of the employees affected have been notified.
The exact number of job loss in West Virginia was also not immediately available.
Crutchfield calls it a difficult decision but says it's a necessary part of shifting business away from U.S. power plants and toward overseas steel mills.
"Unfortunately what you have to do sometimes is take measures -- close coal mines that don't have any prospects in the near term and that's what we did today," Crutchfield said. "The steps we've taken today are adequate and you certainly hope you don't have to undergo more of this in the future but the market is going to be what it's going to be and we can't control it. All we can control is how we treat one another, the safety and performance of our coal mines, how we activate capital and pulling every lever available to us to make sure we maintain our own viability through difficult times. But we're confident the steps we took today put us on that path forward but we'll just have to see how the marketplace evolves in the coming months and years."
During a phone interview Tuesday, Crutchfield blamed the layoffs on cheap natural gas prices stealing market share away from coal and aggressive regulations by the EPA.
Right now, Alpha wants to reposition the company by following a three point plan. First, sharpening its focus on its metallurgical coal franchise. Secondly, repositioning and reducing its thermal coal franchise to make it more competitive in a smaller U.S. Market. Finally, streamlining its overhead and administrative staff by the end of the first quarter of 2013.
Crutchfield says they will try to help miners find work somewhere else in the company or at another mine. They will also offer miners severance packages to soften the burden on them.
"Nothing is more difficult than influencing the livelihood of good men and good women who are trying to earn an honest living. It's something I take very seriously," Crutchfield said.
In West Virginia, 2,646 miners have been laid off since the beginning of this year, according to West Virginia Department of Commerce.
More than 250 have been laid off since the beginning of July. That number doesn't include this recent layoffs at Alpha.
"That's where these people want to be and they're the best coal miners in the whole world and they certainly ought to be working because we're providing the coal to make the electricity and it's devastating to these communities. We hope things will begin to get turned around as we get toward the end of the year," Bill Raney, West Virginia Coal Association President said. "We're trying to do everything we can to keep the people working, the companies are doing everything they can to move people to other operations to try to make sure they keep these skilled miners in place."
Contributions to this article were made by WSAZ Television in Huntington, WV.