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Central W.Va. miners warned of impending closure

MILL CREEK, W.Va. — More than 170 people will be out of work after the closure of the Carter Roag Coal Co., officials announced Monday.

Carter Roag is a subsidiary of United Coal Co., which issued a Worker Adjustment Retraining Act Notice for all employees of the mine and preparation plant, said Mark McCormick, general counsel and vice president of United Coal Company.

The WARN Act is a United States labor law which protects employees, their families and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.

“We’re stating our intent to shut down within 60 days. We reserve the right to rescind that, but that will be dependent on market conditions and performance of the mine,” McCormick said.

The news of the closure comes as a blow to the county, Randolph County Commission President Mike Taylor said. It will affect the county in a number of ways, he said.

“The worst thing about this is the notice we received says it takes effect on Christmas Day. What an awful Christmas present. We’re saddened to hear the news of them closing and laying off more than 170 miners,” he said.

The county’s first priority will be to do everything possible to address the lost livelihoods of the workers, Taylor said.

“I think, first and foremost, the concern is for the 170-plus citizens of Randolph, Upshur and Barbour counties who are losing their jobs. I’m hoping we can work with other organizations to help them find employment,” he said.

The closure of the operation also will mean a reduction in tax revenue for the county.

“It will have an economic impact,” Taylor said.

The mine produces metallurgical coal, and the worldwide steel market is very depressed, McCormick said. There continues to be overproduction of coal worldwide, which suppresses the market.

“We also have been adversely affected by the strong dollar,” he said.

McCormick expressed regret over the expected closure.

“Obviously, it’s not something that we wanted to do,” he said.

If the operations are shut down, both the mine and plant will be “idled,” McCormick said.

“We do not expect that to reopen,” he said.

While Taylor agreed there has been a downturn in the coal market, he said, the permanence of the closure is concerning.

“The fact of the matter is it’s permanent. It’s not like when market conditions improve, or anything of that nature, they’ll reopen. We’ll have to circle the wagons to see if there is anything we can do as a county,” he said.

Carter Roag Coal Company has operated as a subsidiary of United Coal Company since 2004, when UCC purchased permitted reserves in Randolph and Upshur counties in West Virginia. The property had produced mid- to high-volatile metallurgical Sewell coal for several decades.

According to the company’s website, the plant mines 600,000 tons of coal annually. The company operates one deep mine – Pleasant Hill – located near Mill Creek. Pleasant Hill is the only operating underground mine in Randolph County. Carter Roag’s coal preparation facility, the Star Bridge plant near Helvetia, is a 500-ton-per-hour operation.

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