By CASEY JUNKINS
WHEELING, W.Va. - Murray Energy Corp. officials confirm the Powhatan No. 6 Mine is closed, which leaves several hundred miners with an uncertain future at the same time the International Energy Agency predicts global demand for coal will stall for the next five years.
According a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice, the southern Belmont County mine employed as many as 492 workers this year. Murray officials announced the planned closure in May, citing the facility reaching the end of its "productive life" because there are no longer any minerals to extract in an economical manner.
"Yes. Closed," said Murray Energy spokesman Gary Broadbent by email regarding the Powhatan mine Tuesday. He did not comment further.
Murray operates both union and non-union mines. Hourly workers at the Marshall County Mine, the Ohio County Mine and Powhatan No. 6 have United Mine Workers of America representation.
"It's never a good day when a mine closes," UMWA spokesman Phil Smith said Tuesday. "However, we are pleased that we were able to get jobs for members at other Murray Energy union mines in the area."
Mine Safety and Health Administration data show the Powhatan mine yielded 2.72 million tons of coal this year, which is down from 4.76 million tons last year. In 2015, employees worked 1.15 million hours at the mine, but this number dropped to 495,939 hours this year.
Coal industry leaders are optimistic about the future of the business in light of Republican Donald Trump's election as president. However, the International Energy Agency predicts coal's share of the global electricity generation portfolio will fall to 36 percent by 2021, down from its current 41 percent.
The IEA is an autonomous organization that works to provide energy data for 29 member countries. Members include the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, Turkey and most European nations. In 2000, about half of coal demand was in Europe and North America, while Asia accounted for less than half. However, Asia now accounts for nearly 75 percent of coal demand, according to the IEA.
"Because of the implications for air quality and carbon emissions, coal has come under fire in recent years, but it is too early to say that this is the end for coal," said Keisuke Sadamori, director of IEA's energy markets and security directorate. "Coal demand is moving to Asia, where emerging economies with growing populations are seeking affordable and secure energy sources to power their economies. This is the contradiction of coal-while it can provide essential new power generation, it can also lock in large amounts of carbon emissions for decades to come."
Because it is relatively affordable and widely available, coal remains the world's premier fuel for generating electricity, producing steel and making cement, IEA information shows.
In the U.S., coal consumption dropped by 15 percent in 2015, precipitated by competition from cheap natural gas and cheaper renewable power, notably wind power.
Preparation by electricity producers such as American Electric Power and FirstEnergy Corp. for regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards also has been cited as a reason for the decline in U.S. consumption.