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Coal Exports on the Rise in the US

Tuesday, August 22, 2017   (0 Comments)

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Coal in Virginia is on the Rise
Image supplied by The Roanoke Times

Southwest Virginia's coal industry shows signs of recovery as international shifts are causing an increase in metallurgical coal exported from the U.S.

China has been cracking down on domestic production due to environmental concerns, while still meeting an increase demand for steel, and Cyclone Debbie hit Australia, damaging the world’s largest metallurgical coal mining region.

As a result, coal prices are up.

“We’ve been on a downward trend for a while, but we may be able to stabilize it because of this demand for metallurgical [coal] right now,” said Harry Childress, president of the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance.

The U.S. has added more than 1,000 new coal mining jobs since the start of the year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of federal employment data shows coal employment is up with more than 250 new jobs added in the second quarter of this year. Most of the new jobs are clustered in central Appalachia, which produces large quantities of metallurgical coal. 

In Bluefield, Virginia, Komatsu Mining Corp. called back 65 employees and plans to hire up to 15 more, said company spokeswoman Caley Clinton.

Norfolk Southern Corp. has noticed a resurgence as its coal exports are up 78 percent from this time last year.  Coal revenues are up 32 percent from last year on a 27-percent gain in coal volume.

The rail company expects to exceed last year’s performance.

The growth may flatten later in the year as Australia’s coal production stabilizes, said Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem. While the industry is unlikely to return to where it was when it was thriving, the congressman who represents Virginia’s coalfields region predicts it will become healthy again.

“When you’ve been bleeding jobs for two or three years in the region … and suddenly, you’re adding new jobs back, I don’t know if I would call it surging, but I do think we’ll see a more stable industry,” Griffith said.


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