November 3, 2018 - Coal is making a comeback in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. In fact, hundreds of miners will soon be returning to work in Mercer, McDowell and Tazewell counties. The active coal operations, and the new workers they are hiring, will provide a boost to the region’s economy.
Bluestone Resources, a coal mine owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, is hiring 290 workers for the Keystone Surface Mine in McDowell County and the Bishop Surface Mine in Tazewell County. A third coal mining operation will soon be getting underway in the Wind Mill Gap community in Mercer County creating a still undetermined number of jobs as well.
Jay Justice, the son of Jim Justice, said Bluestone Resources is looking for workers to operate all types of machinery. He says the company is hoping to begin hiring “right away.”
A company press release from Bluestone Resources says that a variety of jobs are being offered, “with the highest paying wages in the coal sector, along with a newly redesigned bonus program and new red hat training program for a small number of inexperienced workers is also being initiated.”
That red hat program is important because it helps to train new miners, according to Cecil Patterson, a member of the McDowell County Commission. Patterson says a generation of coal miners was lost due to the downtown in the industry.
“Any news like that is welcome news because anytime they put them back to work mining more coal it will help our coal severance funds,” Patterson said. “It will help the local economy and help our budget at the courthouse.”
In neighboring Tazewell County, the mine reopening will provide not only jobs, but will also generate both coal severance taxes and machine-and-tool taxes for the county. A lag in those tax dollars is one of the reasons why the county faced a budget shortfall last year, according to Mike Hymes, the Southern District member of the county Board of Supervisors.
“It’s a really good boost for Tazewell County. I’m just tickled to death. Anytime you get some 250 jobs it is a good day,” Charles Stacy, the board’s Eastern District supervisor, added.
Anytime coal miners are called back to work, it helps the regional economy as a whole. These are men and women who will be earning a high-paying salary with good benefits. Those workers will, in return, be more likely to spend additional money at local stores and restaurants. And the tax revenue paid by the coal companies will provide a boost to the counties.