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W.Va. coal industry advocate remains optimistic

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The president of the West Virginia Coal Association said Tuesday night he’s confident coal will continue to be a major player in the state economy, despite seven years of significant decline.

Bill Raney, the coal industry’s chief lobbyist, said the state is experiencing losses in the number of operational mines and jobs, but he believes some of those unemployed miners will return to work.

 “We have too many good miners, too much good coal in West Virginia,” he said. “I don’t think its foolish to be optimistic about coal’s future. We’re going to continue to scratch and dig.”

Raney, who spoke at Concord University’s Coal Heritage Lecture Series, said the state lost 26 percent of its coal production within the last seven years. In 2008, there were 100 surface mines in West Virginia, and now there are only 25. 

All told, about 6,000 mining jobs were eliminated in West Virginia during the same period, and most of those loses were in the southern coalfields. Boone County, once the No. 2 coal producer in West Virginia, and Wyoming County are seeing the largest decline in mining jobs. 

While the southern coalfields are struggling, that is not the story of northern West Virginia’s mines. The top three coal-producing counties are in the northern areas of the state with No. 1 being Marshall County, followed by Marion County and then Ohio County, Raney said.

Marshall only has two mines, but produces 17 million tons of coal annually, Marion extracts 13 million tons and Ohio County’s output is 11.1 million tons,  he said. 

The fourth spot is held by Boone County…


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