Future unclear for local coal industry

Recent layoffs at Union County, Kentucky mines left 670 coal miners out of work, and more layoffs could be on the way at local mines.

More than 17,000 coal miners call Kentucky home, while 4,600 work in Missouri, and another 4,200 in Illinois.

“There has been a lot of production that has come online in the last several years,” said Josh Carter, Vice President of Knight Hawk Coal. “However, the overall coal markets have not been that strong.”

Carter says increased environmental regulations coupled with lower demand has caused an industry wide decline as more coal fired power plants go offline or switch to natural gas.

“The prices that coal are being bought for aren’t very good,” said Carter. “All of that points to your costs and you have to keep your costs in line and try to exist with a poor market.”

A spokesman for Murray Coal says that they expect the poor market to cause the bankruptcy and closure of many mines over the course of the next year, but Carter says Knight Hawk miners are safe.

“The prospects aren’t great so you have to be very careful when it comes to expanding because you just don’t know how strong a foot hold this production or ultimately the market will bear,” said Carter.

There could be hope for growth for local coal companies in the untapped export market as the global market increases.

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