“Good news” for the Eastern Kentucky coal industry was announced Wednesday, with officials saying several new mines are opening in Pike County, bringing more than 250 jobs. According to a statement from the Pike County Judge Executives Wayne T. Rutherford’s office, High Ridge Mining, a Kentucky corporation owned by Bill Smith, of Raccoon, announced the opening of seven deep mines in Pike County.
The mines will be located throughout Pike County, at Big Creek, Johns Creek and Pond Creek. The company will be hiring in the upcoming months and each mine will employ 36 miners, the statement said.
Smith is a long-time coal operator and former vice-president of Sidney Coal.
Operations Administrator for the Office of Unemployment and Training in Pikeville Trina Allen said those who are interested in applying for jobs should apply for the positions at the Pikeville office.
“We look forward to working with Mr. Smith and helping out-of-work coal miners and their families,” Trina Allen said. “It is important for anyone interested to know they have to apply for these positions through our office in Pikeville.”
Smith said in the statement he is “optimistic” about opening the mines in the area and intends to mine a million tons a year.
“The first train is loaded, I’ve put my heart and soul into this venture and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to offer jobs to the best miners in the world,” Smith said.
Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said the announcement of the mines opening and the hiring of miners debunks the theory that it’s “the end of Eastern Kentucky coal.” He believes this shows demand for the coal and will help the economy in the area.
“I think it goes to show that there is still a demand for Appalachian Coal,” Bissett said. “Because of these operations, severance taxes will be paid, personnel taxes will be paid and miners, most importantly, will be able to provide for their families and remain in Eastern Kentucky. It’s also important to recognize that for every one coal miner employed at least three other people have employment to support that miner. This is good economic news even beyond the mines themselves.”
President and CEO of the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Jared Arnett said the opening of the mines and hiring the employees will create an positive impact on the local economy.
“Definitely, it’s a huge impact if they hired 200 employees if you think about those salaries and wages that are going to be paid, if that’s people who didn’t already have a job that just opens up and definitely a nice little injection in our economy and that’s going to help everybody out,” Arnett said. “Maybe (this will) relieve some of the concerns and it’s positive news and that’s always a good thing and build everybody’s morale a little and make it more comfortable to make an investment.”
The statement said Smith has “vast experience and knowledge in the production and marketing of coal” and began making preparations for this operation “some time ago.”
Smith leased 100 million tons of Pike County coal in the Alma, Pond Creek and Cedar Grove seams and has secured the necessary permits that are required to begin production, the statement said. Smith has also found a buyer for the coal that is to be mined; most will be exported to China.
Smith said the future of the coal industry is overseas and he immediately looked to the Asian and European markets, specifically China and India, both of which have a rapidly growing need for coal, the statement said.
Bissett said exporting and marketing Eastern Kentucky coal to China and India is a trend that is expected to continue.
“At a time when the United States seems to be moving away from coal to produce electricity, the rest of the world is moving towards coal to meet their growing energy demands,” Bissett said. “Not only expanding coal markets like China and India offer opportunities, but so do resurgent coal markets like Germany that are using more coal to produce their electricity.”
Rutherford said in the statement this is not the “last time” the area will hear about exporting Eastern Kentucky Coal to Asia and Europe. He said restrictions and regulations on the coal industry by the federal government have made coal become “out of fashion” domestically.