Alpha Natural Resources idles mines, cuts jobs amid coal weakness

US coking coal producer Alpha Natural Resources has idled mines across three of its coal businesses, eliminating hundreds of jobs.

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Independence Coal’s Twilight mine and Pioneer Fuel’s Ewing Fork 1 mine, both located in the state of West Virginia, will be idled immediately, Alpha said on Friday September 26.

The two mines, which produced a combined total of 660,000 tonnes of coking coal in the first six months of 2014, will be maintained to allow for a restart of operations, should market conditions and coal demand improve.

Almost 200 jobs across the two mines will be lost.

Alpha affiliate Marfork Coal will idle the Marsh Fork mine and eliminate 68 jobs across its operations. Marfork shipped 100,000 tonnes of coking coal in the first half of 2014.

Alpha said that the mines were being idled due to sustained weak market conditions, fundamental oversupply, and US government regulations challenging the central Appalachian mining industry.

“Prices for metallurgical coal used to make steel have remained depressed throughout the year, reflective of oversupplied markets,” Alpha said.

The miner joins a growing number of coking coal producers retrenching operations amid persistently low prices.

Vale announced on Monday that it planned to idle its Isaac Plains mine in Australia, a 50:50 joint venture with Japan’s Sumitomo.

And last week, coking coal mining major BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) announced 700 jobs cuts across its coking coal operations in Australia.

Steel First’s premium hard coking coal index fob Australia’s DBCT port has dropped from more than $130 per tonne at the beginning of 2014 to about $113 per tonne at the end of September.