Cumberland Mine preparation plant

Cumberland Mine preparation plant near Kirby

The owner of Cumberland Mine, one of the largest employers in Greene County, has announced plans to put the facility up for sale.

Contura Energy, based in Bristol, Tenn., announced in a news release on June 22 that it “plans to actively market” the underground mine. An estimated 700 workers are employed at Cumberland, located in Franklin Township, slightly west of Waynesburg. Cumberland is the company’s only Pennsylvania mine.

The company also said it will not build a coal-refuse impoundment there, a $60 million project that it had announced last year. Contura said in a statement that it has amended coal supply agreements with customers to expire at Cumberland by Dec. 31, 2022.

In addition, the company said it notified about 170 workers at Spartan Mining Co. LLC that it intends to idle an underground mine and preparation plant in Mingo County, W.Va.

Contura said decisions at these locations were made to “allow the company to further strengthen its financial performance and to rationalize its production in light of market conditions.”

David Stetson, Contura chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement: “Given the current market conditions and what we expect from the near-term outlook, it is clear that these properties are not economical and will not be able to deliver the kind of value we strive for in our portfolio. These are trying times, but we are committed to make the difficult choices necessary to maintain our long-term financial strength.”

Trying times, indeed, are here for coal. The industry is dealing with suppressed prices because of declining demand, which has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. Numerous mines and companies have shut down nationwide in recent years, along with coal-fired power plants.

Stetson, in a February conference call with analysts, cast an element of doubt on the waste impoundment proposal at Cumberland. He then cited finances and future contract talks with United Mine Workers of America employees as factors that could impact that plan.

Contura was created in July 2016 as part of the bankruptcy reorganization of Alpha Natural Resources, Cumberland Mine’s previous owner. Contura acquired certain coal assets from Alpha, including Cumberland, as part of the restructuring plan in court.

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