Poor coal market blamed for mine layoffs

Martha Sparks msparks@civitasmedia.com

June 26, 2014

Close to 500 coal miners received layoff notices in Boone and Wyoming County on Wednesday.

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. reported that it plans to temporarily idle its Pinnacle underground mine in Pineville.

In a regulatory filing, Cleveland-based Cliffs attributes the decision to poor market conditions for metallurgical coal. Cliffs says in its Wednesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the mine would be idled around Aug. 25 if market conditions don’t improve. The mine’s idling could last more than six months.

Pinnacle spokeswoman Patricia Persico says 397 hourly employees would be laid off if the mine is idled. It employs about 575 workers.

Cliffs says it issued 60-day notices to workers at the mine, the United Mine Workers of America and to state and local government agencies.

In Boone County, Patriot Coal laid off 75 workers at two of their southern West Virginia mining complexes.

Patriot spokeswoman Janine Orf confirmed Wednesday that 60 employees were laid off at the Wells complex near Wharton and 15 lost jobs at Patriot’s Corridor G complex near Danville.

In April, the St. Louis-based company issued 60-day layoff notices to workers at both locations.

Before layoffs, Wells employed 450 workers Corridor G employed 397.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN, Act requires companies to provide notice to employees if large layoffs are possible.

Patriot president and CEO Bennett K. Hatfield said in an April news release that the company needs to align production with expected sales. He says pricing for metallurgical and thermal coal is well below production costs at many Central Appalachia mines.

— Reports from the Associated Press contributed to this article.