Va.s coal growth leads the way

Va.s coal growth leads the way

Of the major coal-producing states, Virginia has led the nation in production growth this year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

So far this year, coal production in the seven Southwest Virginia coal-producing counties stands at 25.87 million tons. That is a 15.4 percent increase over the 22.42 million tons mined during the same period of 2005.

The state’s growth compares with an overall 2.5 percent increase in the Appalachian region.

Virginia coal production for the week that ended Oct. 14 was 614,000 tons, up 22.6 percent from the same week last year.

Ron McCall, who runs Humphrey’s Enterprises near Norton, said he didn’t know where the increase was coming from — certainly not from his mines.

Fifteen years ago Virginia production exceeded 40 million tons annually.

“Virginia, as a whole, is running out of coal, and what is left is difficult to mine,” McCall said. The advantage of Virginia coal is it is high quality and marketable, he added.

Frank Linkous, chief of the Virginia Division of Mines, said the increase could be because of a combination of factors. For instance, Virginia’s largest mine, Consolidation Coal Co.’s Buchanan No. 1 mine, is back at full operation after overcoming a fire and equipment problems. And new mines have opened.

Linkous said the state’s mining industry also is enjoying its best year safetywise. Workplace injuries are down, and the state has had no mining deaths this year, he said. Federal officials, however, have ruled a contractor’s electrocution while clearing brush from a power line in Buchanan County as mining-related.

Nationwide, bituminous and lignite coal production stands at 918.1 million tons, a 3 percent increase from the 891.25 million tons mined during the same period last year.

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