Despite coal’s decline as a major producer of electricity, Allegheny Metallurgical expects coal for steel and alloy production to be a major economic driver for West Virginia. The company held a job fair at the Bridgeport Conference Center, seeking experienced mine workers to support its mine in Volga on Friday.
“The market for metallurgical coal is strong and very important to industry, to green initiatives because it’s used to make steel,” an Allegheny Metallurgical representative said. “The coal we produce makes steel, and it takes steel to, whether it be a green initiative or automotive or infrastructure. We’re vital. The coal we produce is vital for those things.”
A miner walks under hydraulic jacks next to a coal seam in Williamson Energy’s Pond Creek longwall coal mine in Johnson City, Illinois, in this 2010 photo.
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
The company is relatively new, and began employment at its Volga operation roughly two years ago. The project itself has been around for roughly five years. Allegheny Metallurgical specializes in longwall mining, which the representative said is the most cost effective way to mine, as opposed to room or pillar mining. The technique uses a machine to shear the coal, sloughing chunks of it from the wall it’s part of.
Allegheny Metallurgical expects to bring in $1.56 billion in revenue and 450 jobs to the state, according to previous reporting from WBOY.
Experienced longwall operators and supervisors were the main type of employees the company sought, although the representative said staffing was close to where it needed to be. Despite that, as a newer operation they are only just getting started, and there will be plenty of work to come.
“It’s more of a matter of how many experienced folks we find versus how many we will hire,” the representative said. “So, we’re definitely looking for experienced people to come in and help our workforce.”
Allegheny Metallurgical declined to continue making itself open to questions, citing a desire to manage its public image due to negative press coverage in the past. In December, the Mine Safety and Health Administration found that the mine did not keep a personnel carrier in safe operating condition, which resulted in the death of a 62 year old miner. The MHSA also found the company failed to conduct adequate pre-operational examinations and failed to ensure that miners didn’t exceed the safe carrying capacity of the carrier. The accident happened after one of the miners accidentally engaged an emergency stop, which led to the vehicle drifting backwards and flipping after striking a coal rib. The miner who was killed was not riding in a designated passenger zone. The vehicle was designed for two, however three people were on the vehicle when it overturned. The accident happened in March 2023.
The company’s president is Keith Hainer. He was previously employed at Shell Mining, Massey Energy, Alpha Natural Resources and Contura Energy.The job fair lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Roughly 10 people showed up between 9 a.m. and noon. One prospective employee was impressed by what Allegheny Metallurgical had to offer. He asked to have his name withheld, citing personal reasons. However, he boasts 30 years in the industry, 20 of those in a supervisory role.
“They’re putting a big investment in Barbour county,” he said. “They’re going to be mining and exporting metallurgical coal. It’s going to be a big boost to the economy and it’s going to be a long-term operation. They’ve invested millions of dollars in it. It’s going to be a first rate operation. I mean, it really is, it’s impressive.”
It will especially be a boon to Barbour county, he added, because the county doesn’t have a lot of coal mining jobs. Coal as an industry has been in decline for a while now. However, the return of some coal mining jobs could have a trickle down effect on the rest of the local economy, he said. Families could use the earnings made from coal mining to buy local goods and services such as food, car repair and other necessities.
Speaking of families, the individual spotted another benefit to working with Allegheny Metallurgical.
“This company in particular, their work schedule, it’s like 14 work days or 28 day schedule and you’re off 14 days,” he said. “That’s unheard of.”
Charles Jones walked into the conference center also seeking an opportunity. He was new to coal mining, having only three months underground as experience. He works in a mine in Pennsylvania. He’s glad Allegheny Metallurgical is offering good jobs in the industry because it provides an avenue to success for people who aren’t academically inclined. It’s an opportunity to become an asset for the community.
“Not everybody’s built to go to college, not everybody has the background, the families to help them as far as the mathematics, to answer the questions, to remember what they’re reading,” Jones said. “Coal in West Virginia is like another chance for all the blue collar families.”