BRILLIANT - Murray Energy Corp. announced Tuesday it will cut or relocate 56 workers and close its Red Bird West coal mine near Brilliant due to economic pressure from the Obama administration's environmental policies.
"As of today, 56 people work at the mine, but several of these employees were laid off today. At its peak, OhioAmerican Energy Inc. employed 239 people," Gary M. Broadbent, senior attorney for Murray Energy, said Tuesday. "We anticipate that the mine will gradually be closed through late September or early October."
Murray also blamed Obama's "war on coal" for recently announced plans to cut 29 miners' jobs at the Ohio Valley Coal Co.'s Powhatan No. 6 Mine. The Red Bird mine is operated by another Murray subsidiary, OhioAmerican Energy Inc.
"Both Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stated that there would be 'no coal in America' prior to their elections. They are making good on their intentions while they destroy so many lives and family livelihoods in this area for no benefit whatsoever," said Stanley T. Piasecki, general manager and superintendent for OhioAmerican.
"The mine was intended to last for at least 10 years. Now, we have been forced by our own country's president and his followers and supporters to permanently close the operation," Piasecki added of the mine that opened in May 2007.
"There will be additional layoffs, not only at Murray Energy, but also throughout the United States coal industry due to Mr. Obama's 'War on Coal' and the destruction that it has caused to so many jobs and families in the Ohio Valley area and elsewhere," said Ryan M. Murray, vice president of operations for Murray Energy.
He said 32 of the workers displaced from the Red Bird mine will be able to work at another Murray Energy operation. In addition to the Brilliant and Powhatan mines, Murray owns the American Energy Corp. Century Mine near Beallsville, as well as operations in other states including Kentucky, Illinois and Utah.
"But, these 32 people will fill jobs that would have gone to others. Therefore, considering this, we have lost all of the jobs at OhioAmerican, and we are deeply saddened," added Ryan Murray.
Rush Run resident Ronnie Barcus said some of her friends work at the Red Bird mine. She worried they will now face a difficult job market while searching for work.
"It will probably be bad for the area. It's a shame," she said.
Russell Sox of Brilliant does not know anyone who works at the mine, but he said it was a sad day for the community.
Murray is not the only coal producer reducing its work force in the face of increased scrutiny from federal environmental regulators. Recently, Consol Energy - parent company of the Marshall County McElroy and Shoemaker mines - issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice for a plan to lay off 318 employees at the Fola Operations in Bickmore, W.Va., east of Charleston. The layoffs are expected to take effect Aug. 30.
Also in West Virginia, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources recently announced plans to cut their work forces throughout the Mountain State. All three companies blame the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for causing a downturn in coal demand, citing this as the reason for reducing coal operations.
This is also not the only negative economic news for the Upper Ohio Valley, as Ormet Corp. is shutting down a potline at it's Hannibal Primary Aluminum Reduction Plant, leaving 30-50 employees out of work. A W.A.R.N. notice there shows Ormet has the option to cut as many as 837 hourly and 161 salaried positions by the end of this year.