BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Coal industry officials from across the country are preparing to descend upon Bluefield this week.
Despite the current depressed state of the industry, a huge crowd is still expected for the 21st Biennial Bluefield Coal Show. The industry gathering gets underway Wednesday morning at the Brushfork National Guard Armory and continues through Friday. The event is not open to the general public.
Hotels and motels across the region are quickly filling up, according to Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce.
“It is the biggest economic driver that hits this area every two years,” Meachum said. “No question about it. We already know of one helicopter coming in Wednesday. The motels are full all the way from Beckley to Wytheville. Some of the later exhibitors have been calling us to see where they can stay.”
Still attendance at this year’s show is expected to be down from previous years as the industry is facing a perfect storm of challenges, including new climate change regulations coming out of Washington that are adversely impacting coal mining operations across the Appalachian region. Also complicating matters for the industry is intense competition from natural gas, an oversupply in the global coal market, and slumping markets for thermal and met coal.
As many as 6,000 people attended the coal show in previous years…