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New WVU study concludes outlook for coal is grim

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The future of southern West Virginia coal is bleak, according to a new study released Thursday morning.

The study by West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research predicts that within the next two decades West Virginia coal production will decline another 20 million short tons, to less than 96 million short tons annually.

 “This will be driven entirely by losses in production in the state’s southern coalfields,” the study forecasts.

The forecast for the period between 2017 and 2020 sees coal production increasing to 105 million tons, but most of that will come from the state’s few northern coal mines. As coal-fired power plants are mothballed, in 2020 even coal from the northern coalfields will experience a drop in production, but then stabilize, the report predicts.

“Northern West Virginia productions will likely experience a solid rebound through 2020 that will then remain relatively stable level over the remaining portion of the forecast,” the report reads.

The short-term forecast calls for state coal production to continue to decline. By next year coal is expected to contract further to around 96 million short tons. Numerous factors are expected to weigh on the state’s coal production over the next two years…


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