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Murray, Thrasher, Manchin, Morrisey, Headline the Event

While closing out the Association’s 2014 three-day Annual Mining Symposium, WVCA Chairman, Jim Laurita, deemed the event a success.  Recognizing and thanking the 58 speakers, the vendors and associate members who proudly displayed their products, luncheon sponsors and the 700 mining professionals who were on hand to hear the state’s political and industry leaders talk about the state of the coal industry, Laurita observed that the individuals on hand represented all disciplines within the industry (i.e., operations, safety, technical) and the basic fabric of our industry.

In a keynote address to the Association’s 41st Annual Symposium held January 29-31 in Charleston, Robert “Bob” Murray, the founder, president, chairman & CEO of Murray Energy Corp., talked about the threats and opportunities he sees ahead for West Virginia’s and America’s coal industry in the future.

 

Ernie Thrasher, CEO of XCoal led the other speakers who included Senator Joe Manchin, a delegation from the West Virginia Legislative Coal Caucus, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Joe Main, MSHA, Director Kevin Stricklin and three MSHA district managers, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman, Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training Director Eugene White, and a host of others discussing various mining-related issues.

 

In his remarks, Murray was unflinching in his criticism of the Obama Administration and the damage it has done to West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other coal producing states.

“I don’t think there is any question we will continue to see decreases in employment in the coal industry in West Virginia as a result of the actions of President Barack Obama, his radical appointees – mostly from the environmental movements – and his political supporters,” Murray said, adding that Central Appalachian coal production is down 43 percent from 2008 levels – along with a reduction in jobs – and he predicts more declines.

“I look for the 43 percent to increase as more and more regulations are enacted by the Obama administration,” he said. “He has so far closed 392 coal-fired power plants in the United States – that’s a loss of about 100,000 megawatts of electricity.

“It’s a human issue to me because I know the names of these miners whose jobs and family livelihoods are being destroyed,” Murray said. “If they own anything, it’s their homes, and when the jobs are eliminated in their communities, there is no one to sell their homes to. These are people who want to work in honor and dignity and they’re being denied that. These are my employees.

“This is not the America that I cherish.”

Murray Energy is based in St. Clairsville, Ohio. With the December purchase of Consol’s Shoemaker Mine in Ohio County, McElroy Mine in Marshall County, Loveridge Mine in Marion County, Robinson Run Mine in Harrison County and Blacksville Mine in Monongalia County, Murray Energy became the fifth largest coal producer in the United States.  Each of those mines have been renamed to reflect the county in which they are located.  Murray Energy now has 7,100 employees and operates a total of 13 active mines in West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and Utah. Murray Energy was established in 1988.

Following Murray, X-Coal CEO Ernie Thrasher gave a presentation on the outlook for coal exports. Thrasher said that while the overseas market for American coal was getting tighter, demand for coal was still growing in both Europe and Asia.

Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Joe Main addressed the Symposium later during the Thursday session. In his remarks, Main said that mine safety has been on a steady path of improvement since the agency began implementing reforms and that most importantly, during this period, the industry achieved the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of mining in 2011 and again in 2012, a trend that has continued through 2013.

Earlier in the Wednesday session, MSHA Administrator Kevin Stricklin gave what he called the “50,000 foot view of MSHA.” He was joined in his review by district administrators, Bob Cornett, Steve Mandeville and Tim Watkins, of MSHA Districts 3, 4 and 12 respectively.
Stricklin said he was happy to report that mine fatalities have been more than halved in the past four years – from 48 in 2010 to just 20 in 2013 – but he was realistic in his belief that we will ever get to zero, which he said must be the goal.

During Friday’s capstone session, Senator Joe Manchin was on hand to discuss what is happening in Washington, DC. Looking around the room, Manchin told the crowd that “this is what it is all about. I want to thank you for keeping the lights on and energizing this country.”

Manchin said it wasn’t that long ago that America was facing an oil embargo and as long as 40 years ago, President Nixon had called for American energy independence. Today, he said, we are within sight of achieving that goal. Manchin said we have the domestic energy supplies to meet and exceed our needs but we need a sound energy policy to finally achieve that goal and coal must play a significant role in that effort.

“Coal remains the world’s most dependable fuel,” Manchin said. “EIA says coal will be the dominant form of energy for the next 30 to 40 years.”

West Virginia Attorney General Pat Morrisey followed Manchin on Friday morning. Morrisey outlined the efforts his office has undertaken to combat the Obama Administration’s overreach. Morrisey said his office is taking a much more activist role in fighting against federal overreach. “Prior to this past year, there had not been any Supreme Court briefs offered by West Virginia Attorney General’s office for decades,” Morrisey said.

A full report, with photos, of this year’s 41st Annual Mining Symposium will be sent in a separate message.


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