Battling rising costs, safety issues, export demands and environmental rules, the coal industry in Appalachia is on the decline. Power utilities are increasingly favoring natural gas.
Mining companies in Appalachia, an area covering 12 eastern states and home to 85 percent of U.S. coal mines, have cut at least 21 million tons of production this year, according to Doyle Trading Consultants in New York. The industry needs to curtail about another 90 million tons nationwide, with the “lion’s share” coming from Appalachia, to stem losses, according to CRT Capital Group LLC. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (ANR) and James River Coal Co. (JRCC), which mine in the region, have fallen 18 percent and 14 percent respectively this year.