One of the nation's largest coal companies announced cutbacks at its Kentucky operations on Friday.
Alpha Natural Resources said it will shut down three underground mines and one surface mine and idle two preparation plants. All the facilities are in Pike and Martin counties.
The changes will cut 436 jobs in Kentucky, the company said in a news release. Of those people, 286 will be offered jobs at other Alpha facilities in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, but 150 jobs will be eliminated. Those employees will remain on the payroll with benefits for 60 days.
The company will have about 1,270 employees in Kentucky after the layoffs, said spokesman Ted Pile.
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The company mines through several affiliates in Kentucky, including Coalgood Energy, Martin County Coal Corp., Sidney Coal Corp., Black Mountain Resources and Long Fork Coal.
Alpha plans to take other measures to cut costs as well, including closing offices in several states.
In the news release, Alpha's leaders cited "market pressures" and new regulations on coal-fired power plants as factors in the cutbacks.
Alpha is a top producer of coal for use in power plants, but many plants are switching to natural gas. Natural gas prices are low now — and are projected to stay down for some time — and it burns more cleanly than coal, a key consideration as utilities work to meet more stringent federal clean-air standards.
Environmental regulations have led a number of utilities to announce plans to shut down coal-fired power plants, which affects its sales forecasts, according to Alpha's statement.
"Layoffs are an unfortunate last resort, and it's tough for miners that want to work but are unable to because of factors beyond their control and the company's control," Kevin Crutchfield, Alpha's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
Alpha Natural Resources is the country's second-largest coal producer based on revenue and the third-largest measured by production.