Virginia’s leading coal mine halts production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Source : https://www.richmond.com/business/virginia-s-leading-coal-mine-halts-production-amid-covid-19-pandemic/article_d9e92011-54f4-58a0-aaf8-a0bb07e69ce7.html

 

Production has been temporarily idled at Virginia’s leading underground coal mine in response to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronado Global Resources notified state regulators Monday that it was halting operations at its Buchanan County mine, which produced more coal and employed more people than any other mining operation in Virginia last year.

The Buchanan mine employed 543 workers and produced about 4.94 million tons of coal in 2019, according to data from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The site accounted for about 41% of Virginia’s overall tonnage last year and just less than a fifth of the state’s total number of coal mine workers.

“Coronado recently decided to temporarily idle all production activities and retain enough staff to ship inventories and ensure that the integrity of our operations remains intact,” Jack Pauley, the company’s vice president for human resources, wrote in an email to the Bristol Herald Courier on Tuesday.

“We have strived to implement all the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] recommendations that are possible while operating underground coal mines. Even though coal mining has been listed as an essential industry, at this time we feel we should temporarily idle production at all operations, for the safety of our employees and their families.”

The company has monitored the pandemic and increased sanitation measures, among other steps, according to Pauley.

“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and resume normal operations when we believe it is safe to do so,” he wrote.

DMME was told that around 50 employees will remain at the Buchanan site, according to Tarah Kesterson, the agency’s spokeswoman.

“The mine will keep the longwall mining section crew working this week,” she wrote in an email. “After that, only salaried staff will stay to maintenance the mine. They tell us they have 750-thousand tons of coal at their preparation plant and a small crew will load that coal onto trains weekly to fulfill orders.”

Coronado has operations in Virginia and West Virginia, as well as Australia, according to its website. The company mines metallurgical coal, which is used in steel production.

A separate group of mines in Wise County owned by INMET Mining LLC is also temporarily closing amid the pandemic.

The four sites affected are the D-31, North Fork, Osaka and Pigeon Creek mines, which employ 96 people in total, Kesterson said. She added that the company will keep eight to 10 employees at the facilities for maintenance.

Neither INMET nor its Knoxville-based parent company, Kopper Glo Mining LLC, immediately returned requests for comment Tuesday.

It’s not clear how long the closings and furloughs of miners will last, but Kesterson said the companies involved indicated they will reevaluate in several weeks.

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