Last updated: July 18. 2013 7:22PM - 467 Views
Jack Latta
Staff Writer

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There were mixed signals on the state of the coal economy this week, as one mining company announced massive callbacks and rehires this week, as another company that services the coal industry announced it is closing an office.

Southern Coal Corporation announced this week it would begin massive callbacks and rehiring of miners in southwest Virginia, southern West Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. Company officials say they have worked hard over the last month with several customers to help secure coal orders in order to save jobs as well as reopen mines closed earlier this year.

The impetus behind the rehirings comes with Southern Coal’s new multi-year agreement with American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest utility providers.

“AEP is pleased to play a role in supporting economic development in southwest Virginia, southern West Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky,” said Nicholas K. Akins, President and CEO of American Electric Power. “We believe that it is important to maintain a diversified fuel mix for power generation, and that coal needs to continue to be part of that mix. This project will not only provide a secure source of reasonably priced fuel for our power plants, but it also will help fuel economic growth throughout Southwest Virginia, Southern West Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky.”

Gov. Steve Beshear was quick to laud the news. “Today’s announcement is a victory for the hard-working men and women and their families in the coal counties of Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. The number of jobs saved and created by this multi-year agreement will benefit our region for generations to come.”

“I’m proud to have worked with all the parties involved who stepped up and made this project a reality for so many. We wouldn’t be here today without the commitment of American Electric Power and its ongoing support of the coal industry and economic development growth,” said Beshear. “The same holds true for the diligent and active role Southern Coal Corporation and owners Jim and Jay Justice have shown throughout this process. The coal industry is important to us all, which is why I applaud this partnership and its economic impact to Kentucky and our neighboring states.”

The news comes just as other coal-related enterprises are closing their doors. Kentucky engineering firm Summit Engineering Inc., of Pikeville, announced Monday it would be closing its office in Wise, Va.

Summit has over 125 employees in total, including those at the Wise office who are expected to be relocated to other offices where there is opportunity.

Based in Roanoke, Va., Southern Coal will employ more than 1,700 people directly, and is expected to produce 9 million tons in 2013 from mines in Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama.

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