The head of Alpha Natural Resources, the largest coal producer in West Virginia, said the mine closures and layoffs the company announced last month probably won’t be the last this year.
Kevin Crutchfield, Alpha’s chief executive officer, also said he is concerned that the United States is following a regulatory path that will eventually turn the nation irrevocably away from coal and raise prices.
Alpha is the nation’s largest supplier of metallurgical coal, which is used in steel making, and the company is a major supplier of steam coal used by utilities to generate electricity.
Coal markets have weakened in recent months. Metallurgical coal demand has softened because of slower growth in China and India and ongoing financial uncertainty in Europe. Steam coal demand has softened because warm weather across much of the United States has reduced electricity generation.
On Feb. 3, Alpha announced that subsidiaries in Kentucky and West Virginia would idle four mines immediately and two others by early 2013, while several other mines altered work schedules or reduced the number of production crews.