Layoffs at a Southwest Virginia coal mine have left nearly 200 people without a job. CONSOL Energy decided on Friday to scale back operations at the Buchanan Mine.
The company laid off 188 employees, 39 salaried and 149 hourly workers. They also reduced the number of production shifts each day from three to two.
The changes are local signs of Virginia's weakening coal industry.
"It's bad for the people, the economy," said Dillo Church, a retired miner. "I don't know what's going to happen."
Church spent 15 years in the mines, but he told us the stakes are now higher for miners.
"Some of them may get called back to work but some of them may never get called back," said Church.
It's what the almost 200 miners laid off from the Buchanan Mine now face.
The company told us demand has gone down for the type of coal they produce, metallurgical, which is used to make steel.
CONSOL released a statement earlier, which read in-part,"the scheduling change is being made to control inventories and to align with metallurgical coal demand. The company will continue to monitor market conditions and respond accordingly."
You can read the company's full statement below.
Company officials told us they'll increase production once demand picks back up.
Richlands resident Curtis Campbell thinks more should be done for the miners.
"It's not just something they can just quit and move on," he said. "It's a way of life. It's something that they've grown up with in their families, first generation, second generation, third generation."
Campbell told us he thinks reducing the number of regulations on coal could help save jobs and expand the industry.
CONSOL did not site the federal restrictions on coal as a reason for the layoffs or production decrease.
Congressman Morgan Griffith released a statement on the layoffs. He said, "I am very concerned by today's new that Buchanan Mine will be eliminating one of its production shifts. My heart goes out to these coal miners and their families who will be losing their job as a result."
You can read Griffith's full statement below.
Statement from CONSOL Energy:
"CONSOL Energy has announced it will reduce the operating schedule at its Buchanan Mine in southwest Virginia to two production shifts per day effective immediately.
"The announcement is in keeping with first quarter earnings results reported earlier this week, and previous guidance issued which noted that the company was prepared to exert continued production discipline, as needed, to align with current global met coal market conditions. The action will result in the lay-off of 188 employees, including 39 salaried employees and 149 hourly employees. Employees were notified of the operating schedule change earlier today. The mine will operate with two production shifts per day, down from three. Third shift operations will be limited to maintenance activities.
"'Earlier this year, we completed work on a $24 million hoist upgrade project to increase efficiency at our Buchanan Mine,' commented CONSOL Energy Chief Operating Officer – Coal Division Jimmy Brock. 'The mine is well-positioned for a return to higher production levels when market demand and pricing rebound.'
"Buchanan’s longwall mine typically produces approximately 400,000 tons per month of metallurgical grade coal used in steelmaking. Buchanan shipped 1.1 million tons in the first quarter, 489,000 tons of which were distributed to Chinese customers. Production at the mine will be adjusted as a result of the operating schedule changes.
"While on the demand side, thermal coal demand has improved, met coal demand, particularly in Asia, has been slower to recover. The scheduling change is being made to control inventories and to align with metallurgical coal demand. The company will continue to monitor market conditions and respond accordingly."
Statement from Congressman Morgan Griffith:
“I am very concerned by today’s news that Buchanan Mine will be eliminating one of its production shifts. My heart goes out to these coal miners and their families who will be losing their job as a result.
“The layoff announced today is directly correlated to a slowdown with the steel industry in Asia, which translates into a reduced demand for metallurgical coal. Metallurgical coal is produced at the Buchanan Mine and is vital in the production of steel. Here at home, the domestic economy has shipped far too many jobs overseas, and as a result, our American industry is dealing with the ramifications of slowing economic growth across the Pacific.
“Of course, President Obama’s War on Coal is a contributing factor in today’s announcement. In the past few years we have seen too many layoffs, too many slowdowns, and too many closures in Southwest Virginia and throughout the United States. I am proud to stand with the hardworking coalminers, their families, and the broader communities that continue to have their livelihoods devastated by the Obama Administration and its Environmental Protection Agency’s harmful policies.
“Again, I am saddened by today’s news, but I am committed to fighting to do what I can in Washington to keep and grow coal jobs in our region by further promoting an all of the above American energy independence strategy.
"For those impacted by these layoffs, please contact my Abingdon or Christiansburg office to receive a resource packet.”