West Virginia layoffs for 2017 will be adding 260 more names to the list as a mine in the state has been idled, killing jobs. The reasons for the idling have been attributed to adverse geological conditions and market issues.
This is the second mine to add to the West Virginia layoffs of 2017, as a mine elsewhere in the state laid off 59 people several months ago. The mine was Federal No. 2 mine, owned by ERP Compliant Fuels, LLC. ERP owns no other mine and was therefore unable to save any jobs via transfer or relocation.
A few workers have been kept on to prevent flooding and keep the mine prepared for a potential reopening, but coal reserves are reportedly running low.
In September, the company had said that the now-closed mine had some roof falls and faced other geological issues.
Besides the West Virginia layoffs over 2017, the state of the mine speaks to the industry as a whole. One of the major points of contention between Democrats and Republicans is over the value of coal mines and other similar types of mining.
While Republicans espouse the virtues of the trade (more jobs, higher wages, economic growth), Democrats are often quick to criticize the negative effects on the environment that result from the mining process itself, as well as the product, coal.
During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Hillary Clinton was lambasted for not only not supporting the coal industry, but claiming that she would actively seek its demise.
“We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Clinton said during the campaign.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, was quick to point out that he would bring back the coal industry and the relatively high wages that came along with it. Trump has long supported blue collar work like manufacturing jobs and other fields of employment that promised better pay for those without an advanced education. Critics of the president have claimed that the industry as a whole is already dying due to foreign competition, new technology, and a variety of other factors. But Trump did not back down, claiming that the coal industry and other sectors of a similar ilk would be revitalized by his presidency.
The West Virginia layoffs seem to put a damper on that promise.
The coal industry has been on the decline for years, and the recent West Virginia layoffs are hardly the first to hit the mining-heavy state.
In March of last year, the number of coal workers in the U.S. numbered 57,700, the lowest since the data started being recorded. This is a far cry from the 175,000 coal jobs that the U.S. hosted in the mid-1980s.
West Virginia is in fact home to the one of the hardest hit communities; Boone County has seen 4,500 coal jobs depart since 2009. West Virginia had, at the time, seen about 10,000 coal jobs eliminated over the same period.
The West Virginia layoffs, then, come at a time when the state is already struggling to adapt to a weakening coal industry. It is currently tied for fourth among all states in unemployment at 5.1%.
“Coal mine idled in West Virginia, 260 out of work,” The New York Times, December 5, 2017.
“Hillary Clinton can’t kill coal. It’s already dying,” CNN, March 14, 2016.
“State unemployment rate in the U.S. as of October 2017 (seasonally adjusted),” Statista, October 2017.