CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Arch Coal Inc. on Thursday announced more production cuts and layoffs in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, in another sign of the mining industry's decline across the Appalachian coalfields.
The St. Louis-based coal giant said Thursday's actions "along with other recent changes in Appalachia" will result in a total reduction of about 750 jobs.
Overall, the changes announced Thursday are expected to reduce Arch's production of coal for power plants by more than 3 million tons annually.
Arch Coal did not provide a complete breakdown of the job losses, but the sites where production was to be curtailed included the company's Eastern Complex, which lists mines in Webster and Nicholas counties.
The Eastern Complex reported about 160 employees at two surface mines and one underground mine, but the underground mine was listed in non-producing status starting in March, according to federal records.
Arch's announcement is the latest such action by regional coal producers hit hard by a mild winter, the mining-out of the best quality reserves, competition from Wyoming and Illinois, extremely low natural gas prices, and new limits on toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants.
In a prepared statement, Arch Coal cited "the unprecedented downturn in demand for coal-based electricity" as the reason for its moves.
"Current market pressures and a challenging regulatory environment have pushed coal consumption in the United States to a 20-year low," said John W. Eaves, Arch's president and chief executive.
"In response, we had previously streamlined capital spending, idled equipment and reduced shift work," Eaves said. "We now are taking further steps to enhance our competitive cost position in Appalachia, while increasingly shifting our portfolio in the region toward higher-margin metallurgical coal operations."
In May, Arch Coal had said it already reduced its Appalachian workforce by 500 people since the coal market downturn began.
Most of the job losses announced Thursday were expected to be in Kentucky, where operations targeted by cutbacks included the Flint Ridge complex in Perry and Breathitt counties and the Raven complex in Knott County.