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Dal-Tex mining to cease Friday

More than 200 Arch Coal Inc. employees who hoped to work at the largest mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia history will lose their jobs over the next month, the company said Wednesday.

St. Louis-based Arch Coal said its Hobet Mining Inc. subsidiary will stop operations at the Dal-Tex mountaintop removal site in Logan County on Friday.

The mine will not produce coal for at least two years, while Arch Coal's permit application undergoes a more rigorous review by federal regulators, the company said.

Arch Coal discussed the Dal-Tex situation Wednesday as part of the release of its financial report to stockholders for the second quarter of 1999.

The company reported it made $2.5 million, or 6 cents per share, during the three months that ended June 30.

That's compared to a profit of $13.5 million, or 34 cents per share, during the same period in 1998.

Revenues for Arch Coal totaled $391.3 million and coal sales 27 million tons during the second quarter of 1999, compared with $353.2 million and 16.8 million tons during the same period a year ago.

Arch Coal Chief Executive Officer Stephen Leer credited the increase in revenue and coal sales to the 1998 purchase of western coal operations of ARCO. Leer blamed the decrease in profits on "ongoing challenges at several operations and a weak eastern coal market."

At the Dal-Tex mine near Blair in Logan County, Hobet Mining had hoped to expand onto a 3,100-acre permit in Pigeonroost Hollow.

A federal judge rejected parts of the permit, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided the proposal needed more scrutiny under an individual Clean Water Act permit review.

The permitting delays caused Arch Coal to lay off 44 employees in December.

Another 16 Dal-Tex workers transferred to other company mines or retired.

Before those changes, the mine employed about 350 people.

Starting Friday, Arch Coal plans to eliminate another 235 jobs over the next six weeks. About 25 workers will be transferred.

The other 210 will be laid off.

"We will be attempting to find positions for as many of those folks as possible," said Arch Coal spokesman Deck Slone.

About 55 workers at the mine will remain on the job for at least a year, performing shutdown duties and reclamation work, Slone said.

In court documents filed last month, Arch Coal lawyers said the Dal-Tex shutdown would cost Logan County 250 jobs.

Press releases and other public statements, however, have said 400 workers will lose their jobs when the mine closes.

Slone said the 250-job number "was probably just an estimate, and was very conservative to avoid getting into a numbers game."

"Clearly, the actual numbers of jobs that will be lost, if you include contract employees, will be larger than that," Slone said.

For example, Slone said, Arch Coal contractors estimate about 115 of their employees have or will have lost their jobs because of the mine closure.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702, or e-mail kw...@wvgazette.com.


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