Front Porch Blog

Central Appalachian Coal Production is Way Down

In wake of “soft market, high costs” Patriot Coal will be closing the gigantic Samples MTR mine in Boone County

New production numbers from the Energy Information Administration, coupled with the news that Patriot Coal will be ceasing operations at one of West Virginia’s largest mountaintop removal mines paints a bleak economic picture for Central Appalachian coal.

For the Appalachian region as a whole, production is down 7.1% from this point in 2008. However, as you can see on the chart below, the decline in production is much starker in Central Appalachia. In eastern Kentucky, for example, production for January-June is down 8.6% from 2008. In southern West Virginia, production is down 10.9% from the same time last year.

Its important to note that monthly data is just a snapshot, and not as useful at looking at all the production data as a whole. Nevertheless, its startling that Central Appalachian production in May 2009 is down 21.5% from May 2008.

With a continued reliance on a declining resource, we are going to see a lot more mine closings like the one that was announced at the Samples Mine in Boone County. In a statement,Patriot CEO Richard Whiting explains:

“As we continue to balance our production levels with the soft thermal coal demand, our strategy is to concentrate production at lower-cost mining complexes. By ceasing operations at this higher-cost surface mine, Patriot will keep valuable permitted reserves in the ground until the market yields more favorable pricing and margins.

We appreciate the contributions of the employees at the Samples mine over the years and regret that these challenging markets have required us to take this action.

You can read more about Kayford Mountain on, and if you’ve never visited, here’s an interactive panorama from one vantage point on the mountain.

Kayford in 1985

Kayford now

Our best wishes are truly with the families of the 314 employees of the Samples mine in Boone County. Although we don’t agree with mountaintop removal, it is never ideal when someone loses their job, and we hope that elected officials invest in new economic opportunities in Appalachia such as energy efficiency and clean energy.





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